A pending law in UK requires Internet organizations to be more proactive in monitoring content. Since there are no national boundaries in web space, any content can appear to UK viewers. That in turn means that any company can be held accountable for complying with UK law.
The “Online Safety Bill” has passed the House of Commons and been submitted to the House of Lords for expected approval.
The key features of this bill include:
- Internet providers (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) have a duty to minimize fraudulent advertising.
- Providers now have a duty to monitor “(i) the content and enforcement of content moderation in provider terms of service; as well as (ii) duties to provide adults with user empowerment tools to filter out harmful content.”(1)
- Specification of penalties for priority offenses including content that condones or encourages child abuse, fraud or violence.
- Protection of news publisher content.
The first two items push Internet companies into activities that most have been fighting aggressively to avoid. The argument they have used in the past is that they are merely conduits and not responsible for what individuals or groups post on their site. The UK government is expressly rejecting that position.
The European Union had already begun to move in this direction in 2020, when it “encouraged” Internet companies to monitor content.(2) Led by the former president, the US rejected the European position, basically making itself irrelevant. Corporations depend on global revenue, which means they adhere to the minimum standards that will allow them to operate in their target markets. Companies that operate by US rules will have trouble in Europe and South America (which largely adheres to EU standards). Companies that operate by EU rules will have no issues in the US. The choice is a no-brainer.
Unless of course you’re Elon Musk. To comply, Twitter may have to rehire many of the staffers it just fired.
Of course, we don’t know if the EU will step up to the seemingly more aggressive UK rules. There is also talk of the UK rejoining the EU, and we don’t know if or when that will happen. However, the EU took a very aggressive position with Tik Tok in January of this year, threatening a ban on Tik Tok in Europe in the absence of better content moderation.(4)
We also don’t know when Americans will have access to the same freedoms Europeans have today, and we’re not talking about affordable education and healthcare:
- Freedom from spam
- Freedom from robot calls
- Superior privacy protection (5)
The EU doesn’t tolerate that stuff, but US politicians won’t outlaw tools they themselves use.
One thing is clear: courtesy of the former president, the US won’t be shaping the Internet landscape of the future. It will be in the rear with someone else driving.
I wouldn’t hold your breath about the UK rejoining the EU, Even the main opposition party has said “what’s done is done”.
But then it shouldn’t be relevant, should it? That two “jurisdictions” (for want of a better word) can maintain the same, high standards, independently of each other, feeding off each other’s good ideas?
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It wouldn’t be the first time for entities to align. Brazil and Argentina have largely aligned with EU policy regarding privacy for example.
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As it should be, pretty much. You’d expect minor variations – there are minor variations (even within Europe, last time I looked, Germany had banned Google Maps on privacy grounds) – but the overall thrust, you’d expect to be consistent. And, if something makes sense, why do the work twice?
I can only speak for the U.S., but ‘freedom of speech’ has gone way too far here and too often bad behaviour is called ‘free speech’. You mentioned controlling SPAM … I currently receive more than 400 spam emails PER DAY! Up from about 100 six months ago. How can we make this stop? Surely there is some way to hold the perpetrators accountable?