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Does your startup have a blog? Avoid the toxic content if you don’t want to be punished in the UK

The British government wants technology companies to eradicate hate speech and problematic content.

The British government is going to attack social media companies with fines that could be worth billions of dollars if they can not get rid of the harmful content of their platforms.

The will is to protect users

Margot James, said that a new independent technology regulator will be granted powers to punish companies, such as Facebook and Google, that do not adequately protect users.

The plans will be presented in full in a policy document on Internet security next month, but James gave BI an idea of the British government’s thinking on how the new sanctions regime might work. It happens that legislators around the world are developing new rules to put the giants of technology at the forefront.

A powerful regulator of new technology

The ministers of the United Kingdom will establish a powerful regulator of new technology, which will be independent of the government. This group will determine what constitutes harmful content and will distribute sanctions to companies that do not take quick action to eliminate inappropriate publications.

James said the government will develop a sanctions regime “that is not very different from the powers that the ICO (Office of the Information Commissioner) already has.” Under the new laws, the ICO will have the ability to level fines of up to 4% of its global revenues for violations of important data.

What does this mean for the big companies?

For Facebook, this would represent a fine of up to 2.2 billion dollars on its total revenue of 55.8 billion in 2018. It would be even higher for Google, with 4% representing 5.4 billion dollars of your company’s total revenues Alphabet mother of 136.8 billion last year.

Business Insider contacted Facebook and Google to know their positions. Both firms have repeatedly said in recent months that they are open to regulation.

“There will be a powerful sanctions regime and it is inconceivable that it does not include financial fines, and they will have to be of a considerable size to act as a deterrent,” James said.

It is the first time that the government explicitly exposes the possibility of significant fines for social networks and technology companies

It is not just about economic sanctions. The British government has also suggested that technology executives could face criminal penalties if they fail to control their platforms. “We will consider all possible options for sanctions,” Jeremy Wright, the UK’s secretary of culture told the BBC earlier this month.

The definition of harmful content is quite broad

James said the government is adopting a “holistic” view of what “harmful content” represents. It means that Britain’s new sanctions system will be broader than Germany’s, for example, where companies can receive fines of up to 50 million euros ($ 57 million) for the so-called NetzDG laws that prohibit speeches from I hate online.

Britain’s new regulator will examine everything from illegal hate speech, such as ISIS recruitment videos or racism, to more difficult to detect forms of abuse, such as problematic content related to suicide and self-harm. Misinformation will also fall under the mandate of the regulator.

“These judgments are not necessarily clear” James said, adding that one of the guiding principles will be that “what is illegal and unacceptable offline should be illegal and unacceptable on the Internet”.

The minister said that it is not necessarily the fault of social media companies when toxic content arises on their platforms. It is your fault, however, if you do not eliminate it quickly. “They have to erase it before it proliferates, that’s the point, it’s too late to take action once three weeks have passed since the original publication” James explained.

Meeting with Facebook

James met in San Francisco last week with culture secretary Jeremy Wright. Wright had a meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to discuss regulations, while James also had several meetings with executives at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park.

“I would say that Facebook was quite relieved at the prospect of a trusted independent third party being in charge of some of the difficult decisions they are forced to make when it comes to a gray area among those who know what is clearly illegal”said James.

The United Kingdom wants a leading technological regulation in the world

The ministers have yet to decide whether they will establish a completely new regulator or whether they will simply hand over the powers to the regulator of existing media in the UK, Ofcom, which already makes determinations about inappropriate content on television.

James added that the new competencies will have to be “applied sensitively” because the government does not want to hinder innovation. “Clearly, we do not want a kind of regulatory environment whose failure to comply is to deny and suppress because we want to encourage innovation,” he said.

About the regulations

The minister added that the United Kingdom wants to introduce a regulation that can be used as a model by other countries and that “other governments follow suit”.

Damian Collins, the conservative British deputy who last week published the results of an 18-month investigation into Facebook and online misinformation, said in his conclusions that technology companies should receive “large fines” if they violate a code of conduct on harmful content. He welcomed the comments made by James in his interview with Business Insider.

“A strong sanctions scheme will be essential to ensure that technology companies abide by the proposals that the government is going to present shortly,” Collins told BI. “I welcome the minister’s position, as we have seen in examples such as the NetzDG legislation in Germany, technology companies listen with their wallets, and if they fail in their responsibilities, they face considerable penalties”.


Also published on Medium.

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