The internet has always been a bit of a wild place. For many users, this is a good thing - due to the relatively unbiased nature of search engine and social media algorithms, virtually any website or social media post can gain widespread attention if it captures the interest of enough users.
However, this is a double-edged sword at times. Livestreams of violent acts and other illegal content appear throughout the internet on a fairly regular basis. As you might expect given their massive userbases, companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook have struggled to police user-submitted content.
According to a press release issued by the UK government, "six in ten people" say they've witnessed inappropriate or harmful content online, and "four in ten people" say they've experienced online abuse.
UK Digital Secretary Matt Hancock feels the "Wild West" nature of the internet is dangerous and in need of heavier regulation. As such, the country will introduce new online safety laws to protect users.
Hancock gave the following statement regarding the upcoming legislation:
People increasingly live their lives through online platforms so it’s more important than ever that people are safe and parents can have confidence they can keep their children from harm. The measures we’re taking forward today will help make sure children are protected online and balance the need for safety with the great freedoms the internet brings just as we have to strike this balance offline.
In the aforementioned press release, the UK government said the upcoming legislation will aim to protect children from exploitation, prevent cyberbullying, and stop online terrorism.
Specifics regarding how these laws might be implemented are scarce. The categories of harm the government hopes to address with these laws are somewhat broad and might lead to future censorship concerns.
Regardless, a White Paper laying out the planned legislation will be published later this year, so we won't have to wait long to find out what the UK is planning.