Looking for help with the Online Safety Act  - Ofcom consultation & guidelines? Please get in touch. 

Policy matters

Policy does matter. We may think that the Internet is a free digital environment, where no laws apply but there are many cases which contradict this notion.

In this section of Iptegrity.com, I  report on EU policy related to the Internet and online content, in particular, where policy intiatives affect   access to film, music and television, and I highlight issues for the  policy debate in relation to the Internet.  For 2008-2009, copyright enforcement has been the hot topic, with net neutrality emerging as well, in 2009.   My focus is on the European Union and  its member states - for example,  I am currently covering Internet  policy - specifically copyright enforcement intiatives - in France and the UK.

I am most interested in the citizen's perspective. However, the issues I cover will affect the Internet and telecoms industries, as well as the media and entertainment industries.  

Iptegrity.com offers  original reporting from the EU, as well as comment and opinion on issues raised in other media, including non-English language media in Europe. Iptegrity.com is the main English-language news source for the Telecoms Package review of EU telecoms law.

TL;DR A website blocking order is a modern form of censorship. In the wrong hands, it is a dangerous weapon. Blocking orders provided for in Clauses 91-93 of the Online Safety Bill could be used in the most egregious cases to block overseas Internet services that refuse to comply with the Bill. They are not suitable for targeting 'big tech' social media platforms. Blocking orders have been used in the UK for copyright enforcement since 2011, and there is a body of caselaw to draw on. If these orders are used, they should be precise and specify the exact locations of the content, site or server to be blocked.

Read more: Copyright-style website blocking orders slipped into Online Safety Bill

TL;DR The government's Impact Assessment calculates that this Bill will cost British businesses over £2billion to implement. By its own admission, 97 per cent of the 24,000 businesses in scope, are a low risk of having illegal or harmful content on their systems. Only 7-800 are likely to be high risk, and the real target, the big global platforms, only number around half a dozen. It is hard to see how the draft Bill of May 2021 could be justified on this basis. The Bill should focus on the real aim of tackling the global mega-platforms, and the high risk issues like child sexual abuse. For 97 per cent of the 24,000 small British businesses, there is no evidence that they entail any risk and the cost and regulatory effort is disproportionate to the aims.

Read more: 2 billion cost to British businesses for Online Safety Bill

Draft Online Safety Bill committee 4November2021

TL;DR Key decisions will be taken behind Whitehall facades, with no checks and balances. The entire framework of the Bill is loosely defined and propped up by Henry VIII clauses that allow the Secretary of State (DCMS and Home Office) to implement the law using Statutory Instruments. This means that Ministerial decisions will get little or no scrutiny by Parliament. This will include crucial decisions about content to be suppressed and compliance functions required of Internet services. Standards for automated detection of illegal content will be determined by the Home Secretary. The concern is whether these powers could ever be used to block lawful but inconvenient speech.

Read more: Online Safety Bill: Ministers to get unprecedented powers over speech

Find me on LinkedIn

About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor, with expertise in online safety, technology and human rights. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.