17:09 GMT19 February 2020
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    The United Kingdom's Office of Communications (Ofcom) is said to be receiving special authority in the near future to hold internet entities responsible for not tackling online threats such as child sexual exploitation and terrorism.

    A UK-based political commentator, Alan Bailey , highlights possible criteria of content that would be regarded as malicious while outlining an alleged framework of the upcoming regulations.

    Sputnik: The UK government is ready to give the nation's Office of Communications, commonly known as Ofcom, the right to combat the spread of malicious content on the Internet, including social networks, popular video hosting sites and forums. It's proposed that malicious content should be divided into two categories. Illegal content would include child pornography; terrorism propaganda; incitement to violence, suicide or self-harm; and cases of bullying on the Internet. A second category would include "legal, but offensive or potentially harmful" content. What criteria do you expect the regulator to use to determine what falls into this second category? 

    Alan Bailey: I think Ofcom’s use of this new law will be similar to how they control Television output here in the UK. Ofcom was originally designed to ensure that no content unsuitable for children was shown before 9 pm on TV, but it has in recent years mutated into a tool of UK government influence over the Content on TV and especially News content.

    We only have to see how PressTV was banned in the UK on Ofcom’s ruling and you can be sure that if the UK didn’t need to operate in Russia with BBC Russia and similar output, RT would also have disappeared from our TV screens and Sputnik would have disappeared from there Edinburgh Offices too. 

    So the criteria used may be liable to change on a case by case basis and as far as Internet use we could see filtering systems introduced and websites such as Sputnik blocked from anyone with a UK IP address. The control Ofcom has is so all encompassing it could be twisted to cover any site or content the UK government does not wish to be viewed in the UK. I think sadly we will see this trend increasing worldwide too.

    Sputnik: What difficulties could arise? 

    Alan Bailey: Difficulties will be many and various…

    Even general technology users are becoming increasingly used to terms like VPN and Tunnelling, and solutions to circumnavigate Internet filters are easily available.

    I would hope we would also see a popular public backlash against such measures..but we are not France sadly and this maybe wishful thinking on my behalf..

    Sputnik: It is proposed that Ofcom be given the power to fine offending companies for allowing illegal content, and that they could be slapped with fines totalling up to 4% of their international revenue, which in the case of giants such as Facebook and Google could reach tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars. How reasonable is this measure, in your opinion? 

    Alan Bailey: While I am not necessarily a fan of some of the activities of large US tech corporations (working with them can be very challenging) this proposed power amounts to nothing more than blatant censorship and is really a loose/loose for the tech companies.

    When Facebook takes down posts and removes accounts of people with non-mainstream political opinions for instance, they receive large amounts of criticism, when actually the orders to remove many of these accounts come from advisors attached to the Tech companies, who can easily ‘make a call’ to superiors who will then take action against the company much like is suggested in the Guardian article. 

    Sputnik: How will this affect the activities of giants such as Google and Facebook? 

    Alan Bailey: We are likely to see an uptake in post and account deletions from Facebook and Search result Down Rankings as far Google and there offshoot YouTube are concerned.

    Sputnik: What moves should we expect from global Tech (internet) companies if the law is passed? 

    Alan Bailey: Though the tech companies do have influence with governments, they cannot risk an extended battle in court with even the UK government as the hit to their earnings would be considerable and shareholders begin to get nervous and ask for removal of CEO’s in such situations…

    As we have seen in recent years the tech companies usually bend and buckle to government will.

    Sputnik: France recently decided to suspend the additional taxation of tech giants such as Google, Amazon and others during negotiations with the United States. How do you think this law could affect the relationship between the United States and Great Britain? 

    Alan Bailey: This is actually quite tough to answer as Prime Minister Johnson is still quite new and his actions are tough to gauge.

    A few weeks ago I would have said that he would slavishly bow to US influence over such matters, but we have seen the UK government resist US will to kick Huawei out of the UK 5G market.. which was a pleasant surprise I’ll be honest.

    I’m sure President Trump feels that Johnson was his equivalent of how subservient Blair was to president Bush.. but maybe in some areas he is in for a nasty surprise! 

    Sputnik: Could this be taken as another attempt to regulate technology giants?

    Alan Bailey: Yes absolutely without a doubt.. but beyond that a ploy to restrict content available online to UK internet users.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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