UK considering internet regulator

thou shalt not

The UK government is considering an internet regulator as part of new legislation

As part of a proposed new law governing the internet the UK is proposing a regulatory body similar to OFCOM according to news site Buzzfeed

A cross party committee already recommended back in July that the legislation should look at:

  • Better transparency around online advertising
  • A tax on social networks to pay for digital literacy in schools
  • Clearly rules on political advertising

The Buzzfeed story says the government plans to go further than the recommendations, Buzzfeed claims to have seen the white paper which suggests:

  • Social media platforms will have to verify the age of their users
  • Forcing social media site to remove hate speech and other illegal content within a specific time frame
  • Restrictions on advertising foods and drinks that are high in sugar, fats or salts

Germany introduced a law last year that required social media platforms with more than 2 million user to remove illegal content within 24 hours or face large fines. And that law was heavily opposed by human rights groups and the tech industry.

If the proposed UK bill does implement all these changes it will make it the most restrictive legislations governing the internet in the Western world.

There is also the question of how the tech companies are meant to implement some of these requirements. Such as verifying users ages. At current many social media platforms allow anyone aged 13 or over to register by simply providing their date of birth. As the UK has no national identity card which could be used for verifying ages the social media sites would have to look at other ways of verifying ages, such as by credit card. But this would obviously be a disadvantage to a big section of the population which either is unable or unwilling to have a credit card and would mean under 18s would not be able to access these social media sites.

There is also the question on whether some of the social media which have no presence in the UK could be made to comply with any new regulations. The government could propose to block access to any none compliant apps or sites but this would no doubt prove unpopular with voters.

A concern with implementing strict time scales for the removal of content that it is deemed illegal is that the tech companies will be to over reactive removing anything that could potentially be infringing and curtailing people right to free speech.

The proposed white paper is due out this winter so we will see how much actually makes it into the final draft, and even then the conservative government has to get it through parliament when they only have a slim majority.