UK asks tech firms to take quicker action against criminal content

The British government announced on Friday that it will add to the list of illegal content that tech companies will have to actively oppose under a new rule, or face fines of up to 10% of their global sales.

Previously, search engines, social media platforms, and video-sharing platforms were to be required to prioritise methods to decrease the risk of users coming across information related to terrorism or child sexual abuse.

This list will be expanded as part of the broader recommendations to include sexual photos posted without consent, hate crimes, fraud, drug dealing, illicit weapon sales, suicide promotion, people smuggling, and sexual exploitation.

Current rules only require digital companies like Google (GOOGL.O) and Facebook (FB.O) to remove such content if they receive a complaint.

“Companies must continue to hold themselves accountable for removing damaging content from their platforms. These new regulations would make catching perpetrators and holding social media corporations accountable easier and faster “Priti Patel, the minister of the interior, stated.

The new legislation, dubbed the Online Safety Bill, would be enforced by the communications regulator Ofcom, which will have the authority to order British internet providers to ban access to infringing websites and pay the websites’ owners.

In 2021, parliament committees reviewed the draught bill, which is expected to be placed to a vote this year.

Other provisions of the bill make it illegal to make online threats of serious damage or send words meant to cause substantial distress, which the government claims are difficult to prosecute under current rules against menacing, excessively offensive, or obscene communications.

Existing laws prohibiting the consensual transmission of sexual images on the internet, as well as communications that unintentionally cause pain or offend but do not harm, would be repealed.

Penney Lewis, a law professor who assisted on the reforms, stated, “The criminal law should target those who specifically plan to cause harm while enabling people to share contested and contentious ideas in good faith.”

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