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UK to introduce laws to improve safety on social media
by Paul Hill
The UK government has announced that it will be introducing new laws that’ll apply to social media firms in a bid to make the internet a bit safer. Companies that do not follow the rules can be fined £18 million or 10% of turnover, whichever is higher, could also see their websites blocked and the government will even be allowed to hold senior managers liable.
The new laws are a response to the Online Harms White Paper consultation and make social media firms responsible for tackling both legal and illegal harms. They are being instituted in order to protect children using online services. The government has made clear that while the rules apply to sites that let people post content, articles and comments sections on news websites will be exempt from the rules in a bid to protect free speech.
Some of the material which the government said will need to be removed from platforms include child sexual abuse and terrorist material as well as content promoting suicide. With regards to suicide, the government is working with the Law Commission on whether the promotion of self-harm should be made illegal.
As mentioned earlier, some legal content will also be banned from platforms because the government believes that such content could cause “significant physical or psychological harm to adults.” Content the government has in mind includes dangerous disinformation and misinformation.
The new laws, which will be enforced by Ofcom, will be introduced next year in an Online Safety Bill. With the government holding a majority of seats, there’s a very good chance of these laws being passed by the parliament.
France introduces tough law to tackle terrorist content
by Paul Hill
A new law passed in France this week will see online platforms being made to pull down terrorist or child sexual abuse content in just one hour unless they want to get slapped with a fine. The new law was inspired by a similar law being considered by the European Union which stalled. Firms failing to act in the allotted time could be fined up to 4% of their global revenue.
Aside from introducing rules to pull down terrorist and child abuse content in one hour, the law also says that other illegal content, such as those inciting hatred, violence, racism, or sexual harassment, must be taken down within 24 hours of notification. The introduction of the law suggests that France has lost trust in companies like Facebook to regulate themselves.
The law was brought to the French parliament by Laetitia Avia, an MP from President Macron’s La République En Marche! (LREM) party. She said that the new law would protect victims of crime while maintaining freedom of expression. The French Republican party, however, seemed to disagree and voted against the measure because it thought the law weakened freedom of expression.
Digital rights group La Quadrature du Net has also issued a warning about the law claiming that big companies have the capacity to remove content quickly but that smaller platforms do not have the resources to monitor content 24/7. There are also concerns that the measures could be used to stifle information about protests too.
Source: BBC News
Europol says it has taken Islamic State presences offline
by Paul Hill
The European Union’s police agency, Europol, has announced that it has hit Islamic State’s online presence, claiming that the group is totally offline for the time being. With the rapidity that online groups can be set up, they may spring back up in time but it’ll likely take a while for any subscribers of those channels to reconnect.
Commenting on the operation, Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman at Europol, said:
One of the terror group’s main channels of communications was Telegram but Europol was able to shut down channels and groups on that platform with the assistance of the app’s developers. Europol subsequently thanked Telegram for helping it to root out the malicious content. Telegram was not alone in hosting terrorist content though, as ISIS was also operating on Twitter, Instagram, and services run by Google.
In total, Europol said that it was working with nine platforms in total to conduct the coordinated takedown. Europol also confirmed that Spain's Guardia Civil arrested a suspected disseminator of propaganda.
U.K. government could introduce internet regulators as it considers “all options”
by Paul Hill
A new white paper suggests that the U.K. government will propose that a new regulatory body, or two, could be set up to deal with online regulations. While details of the proposals have come to light, the department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) has said it is not ready to share any information at this time and will publish the white paper in the winter.
According to BuzzFeed News who shared details of the proposals, the regulator would be in charge of ensuring that social networks verify the age of their users, it’d also be responsible for ensuring social media platforms remove terrorist content and child abuse images. If websites refuse to comply, the regulator could levy fines and other punishments on offenders.
A second new regulator could also be established that would restrict online advertisements for food and soft drink products that are high in salt, fat, or sugar – a 2015 World Health Organisation said that the U.K. had one of the highest levels of obesity in the European Union and Europe. The regulator would be accountable to parliament too according to the details.
Discussing the proposals, a spokesperson for the government said:
Ofcom’s head, Sharon White, said that tech companies ought to be regulated in the same way as the mobile phone and broadband industries, saying that certain principles from broadcasting regulation could be relevant as lawmakers consider issues around online protection.
Source: BuzzFeed News via BBC News
Russian watchdog considers unblocking Telegram in the country
by Paul Hill
Earlier this year, a Russian court ordered the Telegram messaging app to be blocked in the country after it failed to hand over encryption keys to the Federal Security Service (FSB). Now, Roskomnadzor, the Russian media regulator that instigated the court case, has said it is still willing to consider lifting the ban on the app if it agrees to follow the court order.
Durov said that despite this new rule change, Russia still wouldn’t unblock Telegram because it is after access to all messages. Durov said:
Despite Roskomnadzor’s willingness to unblock Telegram, it seems the two entities will remain at an impasse unless the regulators restrict themselves to asking for only an IP address or telephone number, or arrange some other deal.
Since the ban in mid-April, Telegram has been piggybacking on proxy servers run by firms such as Google and Amazon in order to transmit data. In response, the Russian authorities have been blacklisting masses of IP address which has caused other services that rely on those IPs to be disrupted in the country.