UK Proposes to Strengthen Internet Laws to Fight Russian Disinformation

Britain is proposing a new law that will require social media companies to proactively tackle disinformation posted by foreign states such as Russia, the government said on Monday.

The law would tackle fake accounts on platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Twitter that were set up on behalf of foreign states to influence elections or court proceedings, the government said.

The law is likely to be passed during this parliamentary session through an amendment to link the National Security Bill and Online Safety Bill, both of which are in the government’s current programme.

Communications regulator Ofcom will draw up codes of practice to help social media companies comply with the law, and will have the power to issue fines for infringement.

Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said on Monday the invasion of Ukraine has shown how Russia uses social media to spread lies about its actions.

“We cannot allow foreign states or their puppets to use the internet to conduct hostile online warfare unimpeded,” she said. “That’s why we are strengthening our new internet safety protections to make sure social media firms identify and root out state-backed disinformation.”

Recently, India too reissued new rules on social media companies that it proposed then abruptly withdrew in May, making no changes but explaining that the law was needed because the companies had violated Indians’ constitutional rights.

The country in May released a draft of changes to its IT law that would require companies to “respect the rights accorded to the citizens under the constitution of India” and setting up a government panel to hear appeals of the companies’ content moderation decisions.

The government released the draft again in June without changes and solicited public comments within 30 days. But New Delhi for the first time explained its reasoning.

“A number of (technology) Intermediaries have acted in violation of constitutional rights of Indian citizens,” the government said, without naming any company or specific rights.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

 


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