Big tech accountability? Read how we got here in  The Closing of the Net 

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.

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

Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State, 4 November 2021, screenshot from Parliamentlive.tv

Tl;DR  The Online Safety Bill is a major piece of legislation intended to tackle the very difficult and troubling issues around social media. However, in its desire to remove the bad stuff, the Bill is setting up a legal and technical  framework that mandates and enforces the automated suppression of online content and social media posts. The lack of a precise aim has enabled it to be moulded in  a way that raises a number of concerns.  Government Ministers will have unprecedented powers to define the content to be removed. They will be able to evade Parliamentary scrutiny through the use of Secondary Legislation. Social media platforms will have a wide discretion to interpret the rules and to determine whether content stays up or goes down. These factors, combined with the overall  lack of precision in the drafting and the weak safeguards for users, means that the Bill is unlikely to meet human rights standards for protecting freedom of expression online.

UPDATED  to reflect the Bill as Introduced to the House of Commons on 17 March 2022

Read more: What's the point of the Online Safety Bill?

UK intelligence services have been taking advantage of gaps in the international rules to conduct bulk interception of Internet traffic.  That practice came under scrutiny in the European Court of Human Rights, in a ruling that was released this week.

 The case of Big Brother Watch and Others v the United Kingdom was brought to the Court by human rights activist groups who were concerned about the mass online surveillance being carried out by UK intelligence services. It has resulted in a ruling that lays out essential ground rules for protecting privacy.  

Read more: UK bulk intercept surveillance - court ruling calls for tighter safeguards

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States v the 'Net? 

Read The Closing of the Net, by me, Monica Horten.

"original and valuable"  Times higher Education

" essential read for anyone interested in understanding the forces at play behind the web." ITSecurity.co.uk

Find out more about the book here  The Closing of the Net

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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

Iptegrity in brief

 

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing. I am on the Advisory Council of the Open Rights Group.  I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. For more, see About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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