UK mulls crackdown on social media
London has proposed new legislation that would require social media companies to “proactively” tackle “disinformation” that allegedly pours into the UK from foreign states, such as Russia, and harms the nation, the government said on Tuesday. Platforms failing to do so will be subject to huge fines or could be blocked.
The legislation, which is subject to parliamentary approval, would oblige social media platforms to hunt down what the government believes to be fake accounts that act in the interests of foreign states and seek to influence UK politics, including elections.
The new amendment will also compel social media, search engines and other websites to crack down on such accounts in order to minimize the number of people exposed to “state-sponsored disinformation.”
“We cannot allow foreign states or their puppets to use the internet to conduct hostile online warfare unimpeded,” said Nadine Dorries, the UK culture and digital secretary.
According to the proposed law, social media platforms will have to make creating fake accounts more difficult and will also have to delete bots used for misleading the public. Ofcom, the British media regulator, will have the authority to fine any non-compliant social media publisher up to 10% of their global turnover.
The amendment is set be included in the National Security Bill, which will be discussed by British MPs next week.
This latest move by the UK government would, for instance, directly target the Russian pranksters known as Vovan and Lexus who had pranked UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel. As a result, their channel was banned by YouTube in late May.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the West for harassment of Russian journalists, saying that Western countries have “buried the freedom of speech with their own hands.” In his view, Western governments intentionally create their own laws allowing them to decide what is “freedom of information” and what is “propaganda.”