The United Kingdom discusses new rules to regulate online content to protect user safety


The British government, through its Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has presented measures to deal with online harms against users of digital platform services – the Online Harms White Paper. The measures were presented to the British Parliament. According to the document, the British Digital Economy needs a new regulation to improve the online security of citizens, given the online abuses that exist. The instrument mentions that self-regulation by global technology companies is not enough to prevent harms to users related to abuses and illegal online content. Thus, it recommends regulatory measure to establish the duty of care of digital platforms towards the protection of their users, for the purpose of inhibiting illegal and harmful content.

The regulation covers social media networks, websites, public discussion forums, messaging services, and search engines. It proposes that an independent regulatory authority should monitor the responsibility of the technology companies that mediate online content. Amongst the issues in debate are problems with abuse against children (cyberbullying), online disinformation campaigns, terrorist content shared on social media, pornography, hate crimes, inciting violence and crimes (there are online gangs that promote violence), encouragement to self-mutilation and suicide (protection of the mental health and wellbeing of youngster), drug trafficking, anonymous online intimidation, interference in legal procedures by disseminating online content, amongst other issues. Among the justifications for such regulation is online abuse of public figures; the example given are abuses committed against female journalists. Another matter under debate is online advertising and the regulatory asymmetry in dissemination of content in different services (for example: the regulation of broadcasting and the deregulation on content published on digital platforms: Youtube, Netflix, Prime Video, amongst others).

The document also speaks of the duty of care regarding interference in legal proceedings by disseminating online content throughout communities. According to the report, the technology companies must help users to report interference in legal proceedings, in the case of anonymous offenses. And as for online content that interferes with legal proceedings, the information on the occurrences must be updated in relation to the updating of the such information. Companies providing content distribution services must ensure immediate removal of illegal online content, as soon as determined by the proper authority.

Technology is part of the solution to promote education and digital awareness. The United Kingdom is seeking to build a new regulatory framework for online content, by holding technology companies accountable for the content they distribute and promoting the duty of care with regard to protecting the users of digital services. Amongst the sanctions stated in the regulation are fines, service blocking (geo-blocking of websites and applications), and the individual liability of the managers of the online content intermediary companies.

Artigo publicado no Portal Jurídico Migalhas Internacional em 15/04/2019 – (clique aqui).