20th October 2021 by Cris Pikes, CEO Image Analyzer
During Prime Minister’s Questions in the UK Parliament on 20th October Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer, the Leader of the Opposition, appeared to be united in their resolve to bring forward the second reading of the draft UK Online Safety Bill ‘before Christmas’. This gives parliamentarians just eight weeks to debate the Bill which was first proposed three years ago.
The unusual Conservative/Labour collaboration was prompted by the shocking murder of Sir David Amess, Member of Parliament for Southend West, who was fatally stabbed by a member of the public on 15th October 2021. Murder suspect, Ali Harbi Ali, has been detained under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act. Investigators are exploring whether he became radicalised after reading material online and on social media during lockdown.
Following their colleague’s murder, several Members of Parliament shared reports of online threats made against them and called for new legal measures to curb the online abuse levelled at public figures. Social media platforms were singled out for particular criticism for allowing users to post abusive comments, images and memes.
This latest tragedy has placed the spotlight back on the draft Online Safety Bill which will legally oblige digital platform operators to swiftly remove illegal and harmful content. Penalties for non-compliance include fines of up to 10% of an online operator’s global turnover and, ultimately, access to the platform being blocked in the UK.
Boris Johnson added that financial penalties and service disruption will not be the only sanctions faced by online platforms that continually break the new law, telling Parliament, “And yes, of course we will have criminal sanctions with tough sentences for those who are responsible for allowing this foul content to permeate the internet.”
To provide an easy to understand overview of the contents of the proposed UK Online Safety Bill and steps that organisations can take in preparation for the Bill passing into law, Image Analyzer commissioned technology lawyers at Bird&Bird LLP to write a whitepaper, ‘The UK Online Safety Bill – Are YOU in Scope?’
In the whitepaper Bird&Bird writes, “The Bill also reserves a power to introduce a senior management criminal liability regime, which the government may do, without the need to pass further primary legislation, if it feels that service providers are not taking their duties seriously enough.” (page 12)
The Prime Minister’s comments merely highlighted what is already included in the draft Bill, published on 12th May 2021, and confirmed that directors of online platforms could face criminal charges for failure to remove illegal content.
You can read the full 145-page draft Online Safety Bill here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-online-safety-bill
Click below to read the full article
The Guardian, ‘Boris Johnson promises Online Harms Bill debate before Christmas,’ October 20th 2021: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/oct/20/boris-johnson-promises-online-harms-bill-debate-before-christmas
The Independent, Ali Harbi Ali, what we know about suspect in murder of David Amess, October 18thhttps://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/amess-murder-mp-ali-harbi-ali-b1939934.html
The Daily Telegraph, ‘Tory MP calls for ‘David’s Law’ to get tough on online trolls in wake of fatal attack, October 20th2021 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/10/18/tory-mp-calls-davids-law-get-tough-online-trolls-wake-fatal/
BBC, ‘Can Online Safety Bill tackle online social media abuse of MPs?’ October 20th 2021 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-58958244
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