Britain Proposes Broad New Powers to Regulate Internet Content
Britain proposed sweeping new government powers to regulate the internet to combat the spread of violent and extremist content, false information and harmful material aimed at children. The proposal, announced on Monday, would be one of the world’s most aggressive actions to rein in the most corrosive online content.
The recommendations, backed by Prime Minister Theresa May, take direct aim at Facebook, Google and other large internet platforms that policymakers believe have made growth and profits a priority over curbing harmful material. The government called for naming an internet regulator with the power to issue fines, block access to websites if necessary and make individual executives legally liable for harmful content spread on their platforms.
“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,” Ms. May said in a statement. “That is not good enough, and it is time to do things differently.”
By introducing the proposal even as a deadline nears for Britain to exit the European Union, Ms. May signaled that enacting the new internet regulations was a high priority of her government.
Around the world, governments are having a broader debate about reining in the internet and whether their actions will restrict free expression. Frustrated by what they see as a lack of progress to protect users, governments are passing or considering new laws to define what classifies as acceptable online communication. Advocates for human rights and free speech warn that the policies will lead to censorship and be exploited by more repressive governments.
After the massacre of 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand in March, calls have increased globally for internet regulation. The authorities say the gunman distributed a racist manifesto online before using Facebook to live-stream the shooting. In response, Australia passed a law last week that threatens fines for social media companies and jail for their executives if they fail to rapidly remove “abhorrent violent material” from their platforms. New Zealand is also considering new restrictions.