The Government Wants to Introduce Internet Safety Laws in "the Next Couple of Years"

By Tom Pritchard on at

Last year the government revealed that there were plans in motion to make the UK "the safest place in the world to go online". Now Digital Secretary Matt Hancock has announced he wants a white paper to be drafted later this year so those rules can be put into effect "in the next couple of years".

The plans for the laws are designed to tackle cyberbullying, child exploitation, extremism, and other "legal and illegal harms" the government isn't too happy about. While the nature of the laws themselves are incredibly vague right now, which isn't surprising, the idea is that Government ministries, charities, and the public will collaborate on the white paper.

Speaking to the BBC, Hancock mentioned the upcoming data protection bill (which is basically just a British version of the GDPR being pushed through Parliament because of Brexit) that would fine companies up to four per cent of their annual turnover if they don't do enough to safeguard user data. Presumably these same punishments will be enforced if companies are doing their part to 'make the internet safe', whatever that ends up meaning.

Hancock is also concerned about the number of children who have social media accounts, and wants to enforce strict age verification to ensure underage kids are kept away. He even called out social media companies for not taking the issues seriously, claiming that out of the 14 biggest companies invited to come and speak to the government only four showed up. Similarly when it comes to topics like extremism, multiple governments (including ours) have accused internet companies of not taking the matter seriously enough - always threatening to legislate if they don't get their act together. It seems Hancock is actually trying to make good on those threats for once.

For the time being we're going to have to wait and see what the government comes up with, and whether or not the plans are completely ignorant and ludicrous (as is usually the way). The white paper should help when it's finished, but that won't be for a while yet. How effective those rules will end up being is similarly unclear. If our government can't even get Mark Zuckerberg to speak to a parliamentary committee via video link, it makes you wonder how much power they can actually exert. [Gov.uk BBC News via Engadget]