Ofcom has published its burdensome censorship rules that will apply to video sharing platforms that are stupid enough to be based in the UK. In particular the rules are quite vague about age verification requirements for the two adult video sharing sites
that remain in the UK. Maybe Ofcom is a bit shy about requiring onerous and unviable red tape of British companies trying to compete with large numbers of foreign companies that operate with a massive commercial advantage of not having age verification.
Ofcom do however note that these censorship rules are a stop gap until a wider scoped 'online harms' censorship regime which will start up in the next couple of years.
(VSPs) are a type of online video service which allows users to upload and share videos with members of the public.
From 1 November 2020, UK-established VSPs will be required to comply with new rules around protecting users from
The main purpose of the new regulatory regime is to protect consumers who engage with VSPs from the risk of viewing harmful content. Providers must have appropriate measures in place to protect minors from content
which might impair their physical, mental or moral development; and to protect the general public from criminal content and material likely to incite violence or hatred.
Ofcom has published a short guide outlining the new
statutory requirements on providers. The guide is intended to assist platforms to determine whether they fall in scope of the new regime and to understand what providers need to do to ensure their services are compliant.
also explains how Ofcom expects to approach its new duties in the period leading up to the publication of further guidance on the risk of harms and appropriate measures, which we will consult on in early 2021.
Ofcom will also be
consulting on guidance on scope and jurisdiction later in 2020. VSP providers will be required to notify their services to Ofcom from 6 April 2021 and we expect to have the final guidance in place ahead of this time.
There is a problem online and it is causing real harm, but banning language rather than engaging in education sounds like a political fix rather than an actual solution. By Ruth Smeeth, former MP and CEO of Index on Censorship
The UK Government's 'Online Harms' plans will lead to sweeping online censorship unprecedented in a democracy. Some of the harms the plans describe are vague, like unacceptable content and disinformation. The new regulations will prohibit material
that may directly or indirectly cause harm even if it is not necessarily illegal.
In other words, the regulator will be empowered to censor lawful content, a huge infringement on our freedoms. The White Paper singled out offensive
material, as if giving offense is a harm the public need protection from by the state. In fact, the White Paper does not properly define harm or hate speech, but empowers a future regulator to do so. Failure to define harm means the definition may be
outsourced to the most vocal activists who see in the new regulator a chance to ban opinions they don't like.
The government claims its proposals are inspired by Germany's 2017 NetzDG law. But Human Rights Watch has said the law
turns private companies into overzealous censors and called on Germany to scrap it. NetzDG's other fans include President Lukashenko of Belarus, who cited it to justify a 2017 clampdown on dissent. Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party cited NetzDG as the
model for its internet law. So did Venezuela. Chillingly, the plans bear a striking similarity to some of Beijing's internet censorship policies. The Cyberspace Administration of China censors rumours because they cause social harms.