Hazards of prison tech bosses over “harmful content” will endanger UK tech sector and civil rights, campaigners have warned.
The fine has been added to the UK government’s Online Safety Bill. Under new law changes, senior internet platform managers could be convicted of failing to protect children from harm online. The revisions also mandate the removal of videos that portray illegal immigration ‘in a positive light’.
The changes follow pressure from politicians in the ruling Conservative party. The legislature had proposed introducing criminal liability for any violation of child safety duties, but the government has limited this to intentional violations.
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In a statementsaid Michelle Donelan, the UK’s Minister for Culture and Digital Affairs, only senior managers who “Consented or conspired” to ignore enforcement notices risked jail time.
“While this amendment does not affect those who have acted in good faith to comply in a proportionate manner, it gives the law extra teeth to effect change and ensure that people are held accountable if they fail to properly educate children. protect,” she said.
Safety groups for children welcomed the move to hold executives criminally liable, but critics have raised a range of concerns.
A patchwork of complaints
The diversity of the differences of opinion is striking.
Wikimedia warned the sanctions will hit not only big tech companies, but also volunteer-led content moderation and public interest websites. The nonprofit also notes that mandatory age verification can cause additional data collection, compromising user privacy.
Libertarians have additional concerns about the economic consequences. They argue that threats of imprisonment and hefty fines will hinder innovation and discourage startups from operating in the UK.
“The natural response will be to block users.
Matthew Lesh, head of public policy at the IEA, a free-market think tank, said the proposals would ultimately be a boon for big tech. He argues that the rules will create greater barriers to entry for their smaller competitors.
“There is also a significant risk that UK users will simply lose access to many parts of the internet,” Lesh told TNW. “The natural response of many platform operators, especially those outside the UK with limited UK audiences, will be to block UK users. This was the response of thousands of US sites in response to GDPR.”
Free speech advocates, fear platforms will be pushed to aggressively block content and deploy automated monitoring systems. This can lead to censorship of legal messages, reduced access to online services and limited freedom of expression.
“That can be quite subjective.
Further doubts have been raised about the bill’s ambiguities. Legal experts fear that the rules will be open to different interpretations.
“Some provisions of the bill are based on the risk of ‘harm,’ as defined in the bill: physical or psychological harm,” Graham Smithan IT lawyer Bird & Bird, told TNW. “The government has said that psychological damage should not be limited to a medically recognized condition, so that could potentially be quite subjective.”
The ability to exploit the rules has raised many alarms. Law professors have accused the government to use child safety as a smoke screen for “censorship and control”.
Tech ethicists warn the bill could politicize “online harm” – a theory that has been intensified by the migration proposal.
The politics of “damage”
The new proposals would legally mandate the removal of posts showing people crossing the English Channel in “a positive light”.
The government said this will help tackle illegal immigration encouraged by gangs. However, refugee charities warn it will jeopardize the rights of vulnerable migrants – and set a dangerous precedent for campaigners.
The ORGa digital rights group notes that censorship of small boat crossings would extend to search engines.
“Websites can be demoted in lists if they contain content that is considered illegal,” the organization said in a tweet. “This could have serious consequences for refugee and migrant rights groups.”
Alisha Lewis, councilor for the Liberal Democrats Party, described the proposal as a “fascinating combination of poor policy savvy and absurdly targeted sordid anti-refugee sentiment.”
Censorship of images of small boats crossing extends to search engines. Websites can be demoted in listings if they contain content that is considered illegal. This could have serious consequences for refugee and migrant rights groups. #Online Security Account https://t.co/NGNjPZQygL
— Open Rights Group (@OpenRightsGroup) January 20, 2023
Undoubtedly, online safety for children is an urgent issue. But the wide scope, punitive action and subjectivity of the proposals threaten to cause more problems than thej solves. It’s been almost four years since the government’s first white paper was published, but the online safety law is still confused.