UK Govt to Force Social Media Firms to Purge Content That Would Be ‘Illegal on the Street’

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Boris Johnson’s Culture Secretary has stated that social media companies will be mandated by the government to remove content that would be “illegal on the street” as a part of the upcoming Online Safety Bill.

Oliver Dowden said that so-called hate speech will be covered in the upcoming legislation which is set to impose further limits on online free speech in Britain.

“The most important provision of that is to make what’s illegal on the street, illegal online, and to make sure that social media companies have proper regimes in place to remove illegal content,” the Culture Secretary told Times Radio.

Dowden said that if social media companies fail to police online hate then they will face fines of “up to 10 per cent of their global revenue”.

“If you think of a large social media company, I won’t choose one to name, but they have multi-billion pounds worth of revenue. That is a very strong sanction for racism,” he explained.

The Conservative MP did say that the bill is unlikely to introduce a “blanket” ban on online anonymity, despite saying that he has been alarmed by the “sort of misogyny we see online” perpetrated by anonymous trolls.

Dowden admitted that there are benefits to having anonymity online: “For example, if you are looking to flee domestic violence or if, for example, you’re a teenager exploring your sexuality, you don’t want others to know about it… there are legitimate grounds for preserving anonymity.”

“This is why we’ve got robust provisions for illegal content, protecting children and legal but harmful, but I do also have to weigh up the other benefits of having anonymity online,” he concluded.

While national conservative governments in countries like Hungary and Poland have sought to limit the power of Silicon Valley companies to censor users in their countries, the Conservative Party government in the United Kingdom has taken a different path.

Without First Amendment style protections for speech, successive Conservative governments have been able to follow former Labour governments and introduce more and more restrictions on freedom of speech.

Police forces in Britain have also recorded thousands of so-called “non-crime hate incidents‘ in official databases, meaning that such incidents may become visible on background checks, despite the supposed “offenders” not having committed any actual crime.

In January, Britain’s broadcasting regulator Ofcom broadened its definition of hate speech to include transgender intolerance and “political or any other opinion“.

The updated guidance mandates that broadcasters refrain from airing “all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance on the grounds of disability, ethnicity, social origin, gender, sex, gender reassignment, nationality, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, colour, genetic features, language, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth or age.”

Responding to the move, former Tory Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned that the UK is “drifting into a totalitarian ‘woke’ state where nothing can ever be said for fear that somebody will be offended. It’s madness, and it’s driven by a small minority. Most people don’t care.”

Under the proposed online legislation, Ofcom will be empowered to police the internet in the same fashion that it restricts broadcasters.

The Online Safety Bill is expected to be introduced in Parliament in May.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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