Gov't Committee: UK Should Move To Holding Platforms Liable For Third-Party Content Post-Brexit
from the stop-trying-to-help,-you-idiots dept
Going Brexit is to swear off logic, apparently. TorrentFreak reports that, in addition to everything else the UK’s newfound independence will muck up, it’s going to start doing an even more horrendous job policing the internet.
The protection offered by the E-Commerce Directive is a hot topic right now, one which necessarily involves the UK. However, with the UK due to leave the EU at 11pm local time on Friday 29 March, 2019, it will then be free to make its own laws. It’s now being suggested that as soon as Brexit happens, the UK should introduce new laws that hold tech companies liable for “illegal content” that appears on their platforms.
The advice can be found in a new report published by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. Titled “Intimidation in Public Life”, the report focuses on the online threats and intimidation experienced by Parliamentary candidates and others.
The report summary, thankfully, puts all the bad news up front. Following a list of (terrible) recommendations, the report quotes government officials wringing their hands about the fact terrible people exist.
Lord Bew, Chair of the Committee, said:
This level of vile and threatening behaviour, albeit by a minority of people, against those standing for public office is unacceptable in a healthy democracy. We cannot get to a point where people are put off standing, retreat from debate, and even fear for their lives as a result of their engagement in politics. This is not about protecting elites or stifling debate, it is about ensuring we have a vigorous democracy in which participants engage in a responsible way which recognises others’ rights to participate and to hold different points of view.
Lord Bew’s beef should be with “vile and threatening minority of people,” rather than platforms. But of course it isn’t. Like many government officials, Bew believes the liable party should be the host of the offending content, rather than the actual offenders. The Committee wants to handle questionable content in the most ineffectual and dangerous way possible:
Government should bring forward legislation to shift the liability of illegal content online towards social media companies.
And if that’s not dumb enough, there’s this recommendation which is sure to have a damaging effect on political speech — normally the sort of things governments should strive to protect.
Government should consult on the introduction of a new offence in electoral law of intimidating Parliamentary candidates and party campaigners.
Cool. A brand new #PoliticalLivesMatter law that won’t be abused by every thin-skinned politician who finds criticism intimidating.
And that’s not all. As TorrentFreak notes, the report also suggests adding new intermediary liability for things having nothing to do with “intimidation in public life.”
“Currently, social media companies do not have liability for the content on their sites, even where that content is illegal. This is largely due to the EU E-Commerce Directive (2000), which treats the social media companies as ‘hosts’ of online content. It is clear, however, that this legislation is out of date,” the report reads.
If this goes through, platforms could be held liable for IP infringement and defamation, even though those acts were committed by platform users.
Fortunately, these are still just recommendations. There’s no telling how this all will work out when the UK’s divorce is official. But past actions by the UK government hardly raise hope it won’t decide to go after the largest targets, rather than the proper targets, when finally free of EU regulations.