UK Government Releases Online Harms White Paper; Congress Continues Hearings on Online Platforms

On April 8, the United Kingdom’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office released their long-awaited “Online Harms White Paper” that sets outs to tackle harmful content distributed by online platforms through the establishment of an independent watchdog and drafting of a code of practice. It also recommends giving the watchdog the right to fine non-compliant companies, potentially including company executives. Online platforms would be held accountable for a set of online harms, ranging from illegal content and activity to conduct that is harmful, but not illegal. At the same time, the U.S. Congress is continuing its hearings on hate speech and online censorship. On April 9, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled “Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism,” where representatives from Google and Facebook stated that determining hate speech online can often be difficult. Meanwhile, the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on April 10 on “Stifling Free Speech: Technological Censorship and the Public Discourse,” with representatives from Twitter and Facebook, among other witnesses. Elsewhere, Canada is reportedly considering regulating online platforms, Australia adopted a law aimed at violent content on social media, and New Zealand indicated it might follow Australia’s example.


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