UK: New Govt proposals incl. fines for tech co's over 'online harms'; critics raise concerns about freedom of expression

Author: Chris Fox, BBC, Published on: 8 April 2019

'Websites to be fined over 'online harms' under new proposals', 8 April 2019

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has proposed an independent watchdog that will write a "code of practice" for tech companies. Senior managers could be held liable for breaches, with a possible levy on the industry to fund the regulator. But critics say the plans threaten freedom of speech. […]

The paper suggests:

  • establishing an independent regulator that can write a "code of practice" for social networks and internet companies
  • giving the regulator enforcement powers including the ability to fine companies that break the rules
  • considering additional enforcement powers such as the ability to fine company executives and force internet service providers to block sites that break the rules […]

The plans cover a range of issues that are clearly defined in law such as spreading terrorist content, child sex abuse, so-called revenge pornography, hate crimes, harassment and the sale of illegal goods. […]

[Matthew Lesh, head of research at free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute,] said: "The government should be ashamed of themselves for leading the western world in internet censorship.

"The proposals are a historic attack on freedom of speech and the free press.” […]

And freedom of speech campaigners Article 19 warned that the government "must not create an environment that encourages the censorship of legitimate expression". […] "Such actions could violate individuals' rights to freedom of expression and privacy," they added. [...]

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