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Newsflash: Websites Face Being Blocked by New Regulator

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HEAR YE’ HEAR YE’ the P81 Press has got big news to share in the world of websites…

This is a welcomed addition to protect UK internet users from offending and illegal content but there’s quite a few questions that are unanswered at this stage. Would a newly created watchdog be given the job of attempting to regulate the internet, or would it be done by current media regulator Ofcom? Lets watch this space and see how it unfolds over the next few years.

Technical Director Gary

A new regulator has been introduced which will fine any web companies that fail to protect their users and block offending websites, in order to make the UK one of “the safest places in the world to be online”.

The Online Harms White Paper is a joint proposal from The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Home Office. The paper has three main suggestions, including:

  • Establishing a regulator that can write a “code of practice” for social networks and internet companies.
  • Giving the regulator enforcement which includes the right to fine companies that break the rules.
  • Considering additional enforcement powers such as giving fines to company executives and even blocking sites if rules are broken.

What kind of material is to be blocked?

The new plans cover a huge range of issues that are defined in law, including spreading terrorist content, child sex abuse, hate crimes, harassment and the sale of illegal goods. However, it does also cover behaviour that can be deemed harmful despite having a less clear legal definition, like cyber-bullying, trolling and spreading fake news.

Who will be affected by the new regulator?

If a company runs social media platforms, messaging services, file hosting sites, discussion forums or search engines, they will become responsible for any potential harmful material that is shared through these and therefore must adhere to the rules.

Why has this been introduced?

The new regulator comes after the suicide of 14-year-old Molly Russell who took her own life after easily accessing and viewing harmful material on social media around the topic of depression and suicide. This has led to multiple charities and campaigners calling for greater regulations to be introduced.

What has the Government said?

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has warned social media companies that they aren’t doing enough to prevent harmful material being published to users, with Prime Minister Theresa May previously stating that the proposals were a sign that self-regulation for internet companies is over. She said, “The internet can be brilliant at connecting people across the world – but for too long these companies have not done enough to protect users, especially children and young people, from harmful content.”  

When is this happening?

As we said, the paper is being introduced as we speak with an initial 12-week consultation taking place now before ministers can publish the draft legislation, so we can certainly expect to see changes very soon.

Our very own Technical Director Gary says, “This is a welcomed addition to protect UK internet users from offending and illegal content but there’s quite a few questions that are unanswered at this stage. Would a newly created watchdog be given the job of attempting to regulate the internet, or would it be done by current media regulator Ofcom? Lets watch this space and see how it unfolds over the next few years.”

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