UK Government Proposes Digital Harms Legislation to Regulate Online Content

Kevin Townsend | April 12, 2019

UK Government Proposes Digital Harms Legislation to Regulate Online Content
Two of the most powerful Ministers in the UK government, the secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the secretary of state for the Home Department, have published a document, titled Online Harms White Paper, designed to control content on the internet. Technically, this is a consultation document open to public comment until July 1, 2019; but it clearly forms the basis of intended legislation: "Following the publication of the Government Response to the consultation, we will bring forward legislation when parliamentary time allows." The document (PDF) describes a new internet regulatory regime designed to prevent online abuse of children, vulnerable people, and even democracy (fake news). It takes its lead from the EU's GDPR, and even proposes an independent regulator similar in vein to the GDPR regulator (the Information Commissioner's Office -- ICO). If this becomes law, it will have ramifications for the entire global internet. The basic principle is to make websites responsible for the legality of user-generated content, and in doing so to force the companies concerned to better 'police' what appears on their websites. In theory, this will prevent hate speech, bullying, terrorist recruitment, self-harm advice and anything else the government classifies as contributing to online harm.

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