The updated Internet Security Bill has reached Parliament promising to make the internet safer

The government’s long-awaited proposals for new internet security laws requiring tech companies and social media platforms to prevent users from being exposed to harmful content have reached the main stage of being presented to Parliament after a number of major updates.

The Online Security Act, which has been in place for about five years, will see Ofcom as a new regulator for the sector with the ability to fine companies or block access to sites that do not comply with the new rules.

With the publication of the updated bill, the government has confirmed a number of areas where proposals on an earlier draft published last year have been strengthened – including the power to hold company executives criminally liable if they fail to comply with Ofcom’s information requests only. months after the bill became law, instead of the two years it was previously drafted.

Tech companies are not held accountable when harm, abuse and criminal behavior cause riots on their platforms. Instead, they are left to do their homework

Nadine Doris

In addition, company directors will now be held criminally responsible for destroying evidence, failing to show up or providing false information in interviews with Ofcom and for obstructing the organizer as he entered the company’s offices.

The revised bill also changed its approach to so-called “lawful but harmful” content – material that is not in itself illegal but may cause harm to users who encounter it.

Under the updated bill, the largest social media platforms must address such content and conduct risk assessments about the types of harms that could appear on their service and how they plan to address it, with how to do so specified in their terms of service.

But the agreed categories of legal but harmful content will now be defined in secondary legislation approved by Parliament, which the government says will not leave discussions of harmful content in the hands of social media executives or cause them to remove content excessively over fears of harm. acknowledge it.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports, Nadine Doris (James Manning/PA)

(PA wire)

Other updates include a new requirement to report child sexual abuse to the National Crime Agency.

The government also said that news content would be exempted from any of the regulations as part of efforts to protect freedom of expression.

The changes come after lawmakers, peers and activists warned that initial proposals failed to deliver expected user protection.

This has since sparked a number of other recently announced changes to the bill, including introducing paid fraud ads to the domain, requiring sites that host pornography to ensure their users are 18 or older, and criminalizing flash mail.

“The internet has changed our lives for the better. It has connected and empowered us. But on the flip side, tech companies are not held accountable when harm, abuse and criminal behavior cause riots on their platforms,” said Nadine Doris, Minister of Culture.

Instead, they were left to do their homework.

“We don’t think twice when we fasten our seat belts to protect ourselves while driving.

“Given all the dangers online, it only makes sense that we ensure similar basic protections for the digital age.

“If we fail to act, we risk sacrificing the luxury and innocence of countless generations of children to the power of unsupervised algorithms.

“Since taking the job, I have listened to people in politics, the wider community and industry and promoted the bill, so we can achieve our central goal: to make the UK the safest place to go online.”

Damian Collins, chair of the Joint Commission on the Internet Security Bill, which examined the previous version of the proposed rules, said it was a “tremendous moment for the safety of all Internet users”.

“The UK is leading the world through legislation to finally hold social media companies to account for crimes that occur on their platforms, such as hate speech, fraud, terrorism and child abuse,” he said.

The Joint Committee on the Internet Safety Bill outlined a clear list of recommendations in December, on how to make the bill stronger, while also protecting freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

“I am very pleased to see that the government has adopted a lot of our recommendations, really ensuring that we will make the UK the safest place in the world to go online. The era of Big Tech self-regulation is finally over.”

There are now a lot of new and impractical ideas taken up at the last minute, making for a huge mix of convenience for failing the duties that will make minority groups less safe online.

Jim Kelluk

However, some activists have expressed concerns about the continued use of the phrase “legal but harmful” in the bill and the impact it could have on freedom of expression.

Jim Kellock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said using the term amounts to creating a “censorship charter.

“Incredibly while acknowledging the tremendous amount of power (Facebook CEO) Nick Clegg and other senior figures in Silicon Valley already have over what we can tell online, Nadine Doris has created a bill that gives them more,” he said.

“The Internet Security Bill will outsource decisions on what we can see online from UK courts, parliament and police to terms of service documents for social media platforms drafted by Silicon Valley lawyers.

“The Censorship Act is a ‘legal but harmful’ charter.” Civil society groups have raised the warning, Parliament has raised the warning, government representatives have raised the warning but the government has ignored them all.

“Failure to remove it will prevent Brits from doing normal things like telling jokes, asking for help and participating in healthy debate online.

“There are now so many new and impractical ideas being taken up at the last minute, making it a brutal mix of convenience for failing at duties that will make minority groups less safe online.”