Plans to create some of the strictest internet safety rules in the democratic world have won the backing of the UK cabinet despite protests from the tech industry that the UK will become a “global outlier” in internet regulation.

Revised Online Safety Act Communications regulator Ofcom will be given the mandate to require internet companies to use technology to proactively find and remove “illegal content and [legal] Content harmful to children”.

The new powers were proposed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries in a recent letter to Cabinet colleagues as part of a new framework for the internet, other Western countries and the world’s largest tech companies Will be watching closely.

comprehensive revision, first report This week, the Financial Times sparked a backlash from the tech industry, which fears any changes to long-standing legal principles that shield companies from liability for their users’ posts.

After nearly three years of discussions on what was originally called the “Online Harm” bill, tech industry insiders say they were caught off guard by the additions in the 11th hour.

Coadec, the tech start-up trade body, said the changes would make the UK a “global outlier in online regulation and enforcement responsibility”. It added that the UK would be a “much less attractive place to start, grow and sustain a tech business”.

The legislation has been the subject of what one government insider described as a “long civil war” between ministers who defend free speech online and those who support protecting the public.

Westminster insiders say ministers are reluctant to be seen as opposing efforts to remove harmful material from the internet. The final bill is expected to be released within a few weeks.

Some in the tech industry had hoped that Chancellor Rishi Sunak might lead a fight to downplay the new regime, arguing that it could make Britain less attractive to big tech companies and new start-ups .

But British government insiders say Sunak and other cabinet members have not raised significant objections to plans to strengthen the online safety bill. Cabinet consultations on the proposals concluded on 17 February.

“These things are very popular among the public and media executives,” said one Conservative strategist, noting that pro-Conservative newspapers have been fighting for greater regulation of the internet.

A Conservative Party official said U.S. tech companies are “currently a very attractive punching bag” for politicians looking to curry favor with the public.

In the letter seen by the FT, Dorris and Patel acknowledged that their proposal “could be controversial in the tech industry”, and they expected criticism, “We are undermining safeguards for user rights, weakening Litigation Protections for Tech Companies”.

But the two ministers added that they would make it clear that the government’s approach would be to “support innovation” and protect the rights of users, while “holding the tech industry liable for damages”.

Technology UKThe trade group, whose members include Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, argued that planned changes to so-called “intermediary liability” would set a “worrying precedent”.

Antony Walker, deputy director of TechUK, said: “None of these proposals have been consulted with industry, which is a poor way of drafting legislation at this late stage,” adding that the plan “violates international legal norms”.

Details for specific hazardous substances will be set out in detailed secondary legislation, but are expected to include content that encourages self-harm or eating disorders.

Conservative MP Damian Collins, who chairs the committee considering the bill, said: “The role of companies is not only to remove this material, but to take steps to reasonably identify and remove it themselves.”



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