Tech Leaders Face Threat of Prison Under New UK Online Bill

The ambitious but controversial online safety bill would give regulators wide-ranging powers to crack down on digital and social media companies.

Tech Leaders Face Threat of Prison Under New UK Online Bill

Companies could be fined up to 10 percent of their annual global revenue for violations

Highlights
  • The new UK online bill faces debate in Parliament
  • Similar measure are underway in the European Union and the United States
  • Tech leaders would be criminally liable two months under the new bill

Tech bosses face criminal prosecution if they fail to comply with proposed British rules aimed at ensuring people are safe online, the UK government said Thursday as it unveiled the draft legislation in Parliament.

The ambitious but controversial online safety bill would give regulators wide-ranging powers to crack down on digital and social media companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.

Authorities in the United Kingdom are the vanguard of a global movement to rein in the power of tech platforms and make them more responsible for harmful material such as child sex abuse, racist content, bullying, fraud and other harmful material that proliferates on their platforms. Similar efforts are underway in the European Union and the United States.

While the internet has transformed people's lives, “tech firms haven't been held to account when harm, abuse and criminal behaviour have run riot on their platforms,” UK Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said in a statement. “If we fail to act, we risk sacrificing the wellbeing and innocence of countless generations of children to the power of unchecked algorithms.”

The bill faces debate in Parliament, where it could be amended before lawmakers vote to approve it as law.

The government has toughened the legislation since it was first written after a committee of lawmakers recommended improvements. Changes include giving users more power to block anonymous trolls, requiring porn sites to verify users are 18 or older, and making cyberflashing — or sending someone unsolicited graphic images — a criminal offence.

Tech executives would be criminally liable two months after the law takes force, instead of two years afterward as proposed in the original draft. Companies could be fined up to 10 percent of their annual global revenue for violations.

There's also a wider range of criminal offences that could result in prison sentences of up to two years in the updated draft.

Initially, tech executives faced prison time for failing to quickly provide regulators with accurate information needed to assess whether their companies are complying with the rules.

Now, they would also face it for suppressing, destroying or altering information requested or not cooperating with regulators, who would have the power to enter a tech company's premises to inspect data and equipment and interview employees.

Tech companies would have to proactively take down illegal content involving revenge porn, hate crime, fraud, ads for drugs or weapons, suicide promotion or assistance, human trafficking and sexual exploitation, on top of the originally proposed terrorism and child sexual abuse material.

The government said it would outline categories of harmful but legal material that the biggest online platforms such as Google and Facebook would have to tackle, instead of leaving it up to the “whim of internet executives.”

That's aimed at addressing concerns of digital activists who worried the law would crimp freedom of speech and expression because companies would be overzealous in removing material that upsets or offends people but isn't prohibited.


This week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, we dive into Apple's Peek Performance event. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
Affiliate links may be automatically generated - see our ethics statement for details.
Comments

For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

RedmiBook Pro 15 (2022) With 12th Gen Intel Core CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2050 GPU Launched: Price, Specifications
UPI Lite to Debut in India to Enable Small-Value Transactions in Offline Mode
Share on Facebook Tweet Snapchat Share Reddit Comment google-newsGoogle News
 
 

Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement

© Copyright Red Pixels Ventures Limited 2023. All rights reserved.