Why are the initiatives of British Internet regulators criticized – what development should be expected

More than a year ago, the British authorities put forward new proposals to improve Internet regulation, but around their published “Online Harms White Paper”A large-scale discussion broke out. The “white paper” was criticized, and until the document finally transformed into a draft law, experts formulate criticism and express concerns.


/ CC BY / Jon Tyson

What is this whitepaper

In 2019, the first version of initiatives to strengthen control over the activities of Internet companies and the content distributed on the network was published. For some time, “Online Harms White Paper” has undergone point modifications: now it is available for review full version (subsections start with compact summaries highlighted in gray boxes) and generalized version (for diving into the topic, if this is your first time encountering such documentation).

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Make the UK the safest place in the world to browse, work and do business online“- such a slogan put forward the authors of the “white paper” to emphasize the goals of the initiative, but immediately after its release, a storm of criticism fell upon them. For example, the Free Speech Union, a local organization that provides legal support for attacks on freedom of speech, ranked the Online Harms White Paper on a par with widely criticized German anti-fake news legislation; and Chinese regulation of rumors that threaten public safety. Even civil servants from specialized commissions noticed the presence of a large number of vague wording and an excessive burden on Internet companies in terms of content moderation and the so-called “hate speech”.

Alternative opinions

The experts agreed with the general direction of the development of legislation and the need to combat criminal manifestations on the network, in particular in order to protect the interests of children and prevent terrorist acts. But they also pointed out that online content, “which can directly or indirectly harm” (the wording from the whitepaper), can not always be unambiguously characterized as illegal. Free Speech Union specialists own analysis of the initiative and alternative proposals presented in September.


/ CC BY / Markus spiske

In deployed briefing report emphasized not only the lack of precise terminology, but also the excessive volume of innovations proposed in the “white paper”. The experts substantiated their arguments with references to already current regulations and stated that the Online Harms White Paper is threatened and legitimate practices such as the possibility of open political discussion. Plus, it doesn’t provide the proper tools to appeal decisions to remove user-generated content.

What’s next

In the context of a difficult epidemiological situation and all kinds of scandals around this topic in the media and media forecasts that the authorities can pay even closer attention to the regulation of the Internet industry, social media and online content. The fact is that at the beginning of the spread of the epidemic in the country, they began to actively discuss “conspiracy theories”, and some – like David Icke – not only managed to get blocked by Facebook and YouTube, but also took part in public actions against the “lockdown”. But there is also opinion that excessive “tightening the screws” can only contribute to the popularity of such conspiracy theorists.

Based on these considerations and the need to check the initiative on the side of specialized communities and committees like NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), drafting a bill postponed… The pause is still hoped by experts who would like to propose alternative options for regulating the country’s Internet space.

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