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UK waters down on-line restrictions after free speech outcry

Credit score: CC0 Public Area

The British authorities on Monday deserted a plan to drive tech companies to take away web content material that’s dangerous however authorized, after the proposal drew sturdy criticism from lawmakers and civil liberties teams.

The U.Ok. has watered down its On-line Security Invoice, an bold however controversial try and crack down on on-line racism, sexual abuse, bullying, fraud and different dangerous materials. Related efforts are underway within the European Union and america, however the U.Ok.’s was one of the vital sweeping. In its unique kind, the invoice gave regulators wide-ranging powers to sanction digital and social media corporations like Google, Fb, Twitter and TikTok.

Critics expressed concern {that a} requirement for the most important platforms to take away “authorized however dangerous” content material might result in censorship and undermine free speech.

The Conservative authorities of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who took workplace final month, has now dropped that a part of the invoice, acknowledging that it might “over-criminalize” on-line content material.

Digital Secretary Michelle Donelan stated the change eliminated the chance that “tech companies or future governments might use the legal guidelines as a license to censor reputable views.”

As an alternative, the invoice says corporations should set out clear phrases of service, and stick with them. Corporations will likely be free to permit adults to submit and see offensive or dangerous materials, so long as it’s not unlawful. However platforms that pledge to ban racist, homophobic or different offensive content material after which fail to stay as much as the promise will be fined as much as 10% of their annual turnover.

The laws additionally requires companies to assist individuals keep away from seeing content material that’s authorized however could also be dangerous—such because the glorification of consuming problems, misogyny and another types of abuse—by warnings, content material moderation or different means.

Corporations additionally should present how they implement person age limits designed to maintain kids from seeing dangerous materials.

The invoice nonetheless criminalizes some on-line exercise, together with cyberflashing—sending somebody undesirable express pictures—and epilepsy trolling, sending flashing pictures that may set off seizures. It additionally makes it an offense to help or encourage self-harm, a step that follows a marketing campaign by the household of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old who ended her life in 2017 after viewing self-harm and suicide content material on-line.

The federal government hopes the modifications will likely be sufficient to get the invoice by Parliament, the place it has languished for 18 months amid widespread opposition.

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