Today, the United Kingdom’s Parliament published a much anticipated Online Safety Bill. “Internet users are one step closer to a safer online environment as the government’s new world-leading online safety laws are brought before parliament today,” said a release attributed to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).210285
“We don’t give it a second’s thought when we buckle our seat belts to protect ourselves when driving,” said UK Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries. “Given all the risks online, it’s only sensible we ensure similar basic protections for the digital age. If we fail to act, we risk sacrificing the wellbeing and innocence of countless generations of children to the power of unchecked algorithms.”
The bill would give the British regulator Ofcom sweeping new authority over web and social media firms, including the new power to fine companies that fail to comply with the laws up to 10% of their annual global turnover, force them to improve their practices, and even to block non-compliant sites.
In order to become law, the bill must be approved by both houses of Parliament and receive royal assent, a process that could take months to years, and may include additional rounds of revision.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.