Tech firms write to ministers over online content rules

Some of the largest tech firms have written to ministers in the UK to express their views about how they believe harmful online content should be regulated, according to a BBC report.

Tech firms, including Facebook, Google, and Twitter, say the difference between illegal and harmful contents needs to properly recognised.

In 2017, the UK government urged content hosts and ISPs to remove harmful or intimidating content.

As part of the governments’ effort to keep people safe from harmful online content, the government will release an “online harm” whitepaper in the forthcoming weeks.

Six principles

In the letter, the tech firm outlined six principles that they believe the government needs to consider before introducing any new legislations.

According to the BBC report, they said that any regulation must ”be targeted at specific harms, using a risk-based approach.”

Secondly, the legislation needs to “provide flexibility to adapt to changing technologies, different services, and evolving societal expectations.”

The third issue mainly deals with responsibility, as tech firms want to “maintain the intermediary liability protections that enable the internet to deliver significant benefits for consumers, society and the economy.”

The last three rules state that they have to “technically possible to implement in practice”; they have to “provide clarity and certainty for consumers, citizens and internet companies”; and lastly has to “recognise the distinction between public and private communication.”

Harmful online content

The move comes amid increased pressure from lawmakers on tech firms to take action when it comes to removing illegal or harmful content.

Earlier this month, the Science and Technology committee said that social media companies must be subject to a legal duty of care to protect children from harmful online content.

Cases such as the 14-year-old Molly Russell, who took her own life in 2017 after viewing self-harm images on Instagram, has only reignited the governments’ stance to take down illegal material and purge harmful content.

Following coverage of the case, Instagram said it would remove all images of self-harm on its platform.

However, Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said “radical action” is needed to “fix the distorted digital market.”

Mr.Watson called for the creation of a new digital watchdog which has the power to break up tech monopolies.


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