On its upcoming ‘Online Harms Bill’ the UK government has released its first white paper, bringing forward new legislation that would make tech firms accountable for their online environments.
On Tuesday, UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden (DCMS) presented the white paper to Commons stating that “trust in tech is falling… that’s bad for the public, and it’s bad for the tech companies”.
Dowden noted that in online enterprises, which will be put under a duty of care to their users supervised by media and broadcast regulator Ofcom, the United Kingdom will create a world-leading regime to restore public confidence and trust.
Ofcom will become the regulator of online content in the initial white paper proposals, granting new powers to penalise and block access to digital channels considered inefficient to protect users from online damage.
Grabbing the headlines on Tuesday was the suggestion that tech firms will “face steep fines of up to £ 18 million or 10 percent of annual global annual.”
DCMS proposals have generated a mixed response to how Ofcom would track and judge complexities against the complicated balance of popular public speech in relation to online violence, content and user behaviour.
In addition, will government legislation be fairer than tech companies that have invested enormous resources on their networks tackling these influential issues? DCMS said it would work with tech companies on guidelines and facts as to how to implement new standards and protections.
Dame Melanie Dawes, CEO of Ofcom, stated: “Being online brings huge benefits, but four in five people have concerns about it. That shows the need for sensible, balanced rules that protect users from serious harm, but also recognise the great things about online, including free expression.
“We’re gearing up for the task by acquiring new technology and data skills, and we’ll work with Parliament as it finalises the plans.”
Under the premiership of former PM Theresa May a bill regulating online environments was first introduced to impose responsibility on tech companies to track photos of sexual harassment, terrorist content, disinformation, and more user activity.
Last year during the Christmas Snap Election, online safety played a prominent role as the Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and SNP parties pledged in their campaign manifestos to rewrite the digital codes of Britain using new rules and safeguards.
The progress of broader digital regulatory changes should be tracked by UK gambling stakeholders, as DCMS starts its proof and consultation process approved last week by the 2005 Gambling Act.
Corporate behaviour and care-of-duty were listed as key concerns to be examined by DCMS, which reported that UK gambling needed a re-connection of its relationships with larger industry, sports and local communities.
The department will also review the roles and results as the regulatory body of gambling of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). DCMS claimed in its policy papers that it needed the UKGC to draw on broader data and intelligence sets to regulate licenced incumbents and determine the sector’s regulatory outcomes.