UK’s new online safety law adds to crack down on Big Tech companies
AP News: British lawmakers have approved an ambitious but controversial new internet safety law with wide-ranging powers to crack down on digital and social media companies like TikTok, Google, and Facebook and Instagram parent Meta.
The government says the online safety bill passed this week will make Britain the safest place in the world to be online. But digital rights groups say it threatens online privacy and freedom of speech.
The new law is the U.K.’s contribution to efforts in Europe and elsewhere to clamp down on the freewheeling tech industry dominated by U.S. companies. The European Union has its Digital Services Act, which took effect last month with similar provisions aimed at cleaning up social media for users in the 27-nation bloc.
WHAT IS THE ONLINE SAFETY LAW?
The sprawling piece of legislation has been in the works since 2021.
The new law requires social media platforms to take down illegal content, including child sexual abuse, hate speech and terrorism, revenge porn and posts promoting self-harm. They also will have to stop such content from appearing in the first place and give users more controls, including blocking anonymous trolls.
The government says the law takes a “zero tolerance” approach to protecting kids by making platforms legally responsible for their online safety. Platforms will be required to stop children from accessing content that, while not illegal, could be harmful or not age-appropriate, including porn, bullying or, for example, glorifying eating disorders or providing instructions for suicide.
Social media platforms will be legally required to verify that users are old enough, typically 13, and porn websites will have to make sure users are 18.
The bill criminalizes some online activity, such as cyberflashing, which is sending someone unwanted explicit images.
WHAT IF BIG TECH DOESN’T COMPLY?
The law applies to any internet company, no matter where it’s based as long as a U.K. user can access its services. Companies that don’t fall in line face fines of up to 18 million pounds ($22 million) or 10% of annual global sales, whichever is greater.
Senior managers at tech companies also face criminal prosecution and prison time if they fail to answer information requests from U.K. regulators. They’ll also be held criminally liable if their company fails to comply with regulators’ notices about child sex abuse and exploitation.
Ofcom, the U.K. communications regulator, will enforce the law. It will focus first on illegal content as the government takes a “phased approach” to bring it into force.
Beyond that, it’s unclear how the law will be enforced because details haven’t been provided.
WHAT DO CRITICS SAY?
Digital rights groups say the law’s provisions threaten to undermine online freedoms.
The U.K.-based Open Rights Group and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in the U.S. said that if tech companies have to ensure content is not harmful for children, they could end up being forced to choose between sanitizing their platforms or making users verify their ages by uploading official ID or using privacy-intrusive face scans to estimate how old they are.
The law also sets up a clash between the British government and tech companies over encryption technology. It gives regulators the power to require encrypted messaging services to install “accredited technology” to scan encrypted messages for terrorist or child sex abuse content.
Experts say that would provide a backdoor for private communications that ends up making everyone less safe.
Meta said last month that it plans to start adding end-to-end encryption to all Messenger chats by default by the end of year. But the U.K. government called on the company not to do so without measures to protect children from sex abuse and exploitation.
The Blockchain Bill That Doesn’t Mention Blockchain: U.K. Leads The Digital Space Race In Trade
Forbes: This week the most important law you’ve never heard of came into force in the U.K. The Electronic Trade Documents Act powers commenced on the 20th of September 2023. The U.K. is the first G7 nation to pass such legislation.
The law transforms a paper bill of lading into a digital asset. A bill of lading is a bearer instrument for the consignment of goods on paper. As a digital asset, it requires no “wet ink” signatures, replacing them with digital signatures. This is similar to dematerialized securities like stock certificates which are traded electronically on stock exchanges and available on your favorite brokerage mobile app.
The advantages of digital over paper are self-evident, making it easier, cheaper, faster, and more secure to trade internationally.
The International Chamber of Commerce has estimated that digitalizing trade documents could generate $25 billion in new economic growth by 2024, and free up $250 billion in efficiency savings. The benefits are not limited to just cost savings, the World Economic Forum suggests that “digital trade” could reduce carbon emissions from the global logistics industry by up to 12 percent.
China’s ‘unfairness’ warrants a more assertive EU approach, warns trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis
European Union trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis warned that Europe will become more assertive as it tackles “unfairness” in its economic relations with China, as he stopped to speak at a university during his China trip.
That has been the key message of Dombrovskis since arriving in China on Saturday and setting off on a four-day tour of Shanghai, Suzhou and Beijing, where he was due to attend the 10th China-European Union High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue with Chinese officials on Monday.
His speech also covered the EU’s grievances about China’s position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and on the difficulties that European companies face in operating in China. He added that the EU hopes a large part of the bilateral trade and investment relationship can remain in place and “develop further”.
Following his speech, Dombrovskis was due to meet Chinese officials including He Lifeng, the vice-premier overseeing monetary issues and foreign investment.
The meetings are expected to cover new bilateral tensions stemming from the EU’s latest probe into a “flood” of cheap Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) into the continent.
The announcement was made just over a week before Dombrovskis’ trip.
In his speech at Tsinghua, Dombrovskis vowed that the investigation would be “fact-based” and have “substantial engagement” from the Chinese government and companies.
Dombrovskis, who started his China trip in Shanghai, spoke at the Bund Summit on Saturday, saying the EU has “no intention of decoupling from China”, while repeating its “de-risking” approach. He also cited a trade deficit of almost 400 billion euros (US$426 billion).
How will Biden’s hi-tech pledges to Hanoi affect China’s role in Vietnam and global supply chain?
SCMP: Washington’s latest pledges to hi-tech industries in Vietnam could further move the Southeast Asian nation up the manufacturing value chain, signalling a resolute de-risking from Beijing and subsequently threatening China’s industry dominance.
While it is not likely to push China out of supply chains in the short term, many analysts warn that Beijing’s tactic of using its Southeast Asian neighbour as a re-export centre may receive further scrutiny.
Vietnam signed billion-dollar deals with American businesses, including Boeing, Microsoft and Nvidia, during US President Joe Biden’s two-day state visit to Hanoi on September 10 – when he pledged to deepen cooperation in “cloud computing, semiconductors and artificial intelligence”.
Last week US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo further discussed with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh how to advance their comprehensive strategic partnership, including US recognition of Vietnam’s market economy status.
García-Herrero said a major reason for Chinese companies to move to Vietnam would be to avoid tariffs.