At a glance.
- British lawmakers crack down on self-harm content.
- Social media platforms could face fines for child accounts in the UK.
- Predictions for US cyber legislation as 2022 comes to a close.
British lawmakers crack down on self-harm content.
The British government has announced an update to the Online Safety Bill that will make the encouragement of self-harm on the web a crime, BBC News reports. Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said she was strengthening the bill “to make sure these vile acts are stamped out. I am determined that the abhorrent trolls encouraging the young and vulnerable to self-harm are brought to justice.” The update will make self-harm content an offence, much like content that encourages suicide, which has already been deemed illegal. Social media platforms will be required to remove self-harm content, and any person found to have posted such content would face prosecution. The move was motivated by the 2017 death of Molly Russell, who took her own life after viewing self-harm content on social media platforms, but the amendment had been stalled for nearly a year after being initially proposed in December 2021. Other new offenses added to the bill will include the sharing of intimate images without consent. The bill will return to Parliament in early December, though it’s unclear exactly when the amendments will be tabled.
Social media platforms could face fines for child accounts in the UK.
Staying on the topic of the UK's Online Safety Bill, the Telegraph reports that the update will also focus on preventing minors from creating social media accounts on platforms with age restrictions. Under the revamped bill, such platforms will be required to clearly detail in their terms of service the measures they use to enforce age limits. The goal is to make it easier for watchdog the Office of Communications (Ofcom) and parents to ensure these limits are being upheld. Companies found to be in violation will be fined up to 10% of their global turnover. (For example, for Meta that could be up to $12 billion.) According to Ofcom research, one-third of children aged five to seven and 60% of eight to eleven-year-olds have their own social media profiles, which accounts for up to 1.8 million children under thirteen in the UK. Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan, who is overseeing the new bill, made online child protections a focus, also addressing sexual abuse and cyberbullying. Donelan writes, “British values are family values. We protect our children from those who wish to do them harm. We defend the most vulnerable. And we all know that whether it is in a family or in society, free speech and the right to disagree is the bedrock of a healthy community. So why should we allow the online world to be any different?” Tech companies will also be required to publish risk assessments on the dangers their sites pose to children.
Predictions for US cyber legislation as 2022 comes to a close.
US Congress’s lame-duck session begins this week, and the Washington Post looks at lawmakers’ plans for cyber legislation as they finish out the year. The annual must-pass defense policy bill will include proposals for cyber laws, but with Republicans poised to take control of the House, the likely new Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California is calling for a delay. Bipartisan cyber provisions likely to pass include the codification of the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, as well as setting the base tenure of the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at five years. It’s less clear whether legislation restricting commercial spyware will pass. While there’s a bipartisan proposal pushing the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to bar spyware makers from receiving spy agency contracts, some lawmakers have taken issue with the proposal’s wording. The future is uncertain for legislation to update a 2014 law governing federal agency cybersecurity, and the Chinese chip ban is facing pushback from industry leaders. There is a proposal to prioritize the protection of the critical infrastructure entities deemed most vital, but opposition from a coalition of industry users will likely force lawmakers to leave the proposal on the cutting room floor. Industry opposition will likely also kill the proposed requirement that Defense Department contractors deliver a “bill of materials” to the Pentagon detailing their software components. And the National Security Agency has taken issue with the wording of a provision aimed at promoting threat information sharing between government and industry called the “Joint Collaborative Environment,” stating the proposal could impede existing information-sharing programs.