LONDON: The British Home Office has announced earlier this week that it is pushing for legal measures that would require big tech companies to monitor and block “legal but harmful” content on their platforms.
The suggested measures will create new liabilities for Internet platforms such as Facebook and Google, and could create a clash with European data protection rules and deter further investment from multinational tech companies in Britain.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel has been seeking changes to the upcoming Online Safety Bill, a large-scope legislation aimed at cracking down on fraud, terrorism and other illegal activities on digital platforms.
However, increasing the liability of tech companies for content that is deemed harmful but not illegal would be a radical departure by the UK from US and European models of Internet regulation.
If the Home Office’s proposals are added to the bill, Britain’s communications regulator Ofcom would be granted powers to demand from tech companies a higher level of active monitoring and blocking, rather than merely relying on their users to report abusive or offensive material.
“The home secretary has been clear that the internet cannot be a safe haven for despicable criminals to exploit and abuse people online. We expect companies to remove and limit the spread of illegal content on their platforms. Where they don’t, it is right they are held to account,” a Home Office spokesperson said.
Earlier this month, new measures were added to the proposed Online Safety Bill, including sending “genuinely threatening” or “knowingly false” messages which will be counted as criminal offence.
If passed, the government’s online safety bill could see tech companies fined 10 percent of their global turnover if they fail to remove harmful content.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries urged online platforms to start making the changes now before the bill comes into force, saying that: “They can start doing what they need to do to remove those harmful algorithms and to remove much of the damage that they do, particularly to young people and to society as a whole.”
The government confirmed offences that have been added to the list of priority offences, which must be removed by platforms under the changes, include: Revenge porn, hate crimes, fraud, the sale of illegal drugs or weapons, the promotion or facilitation of suicide, people smuggling and sexual exploitation.