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UK government promises laws to police 'Wild West Internet'

UK government plans laws to make online activity safer after green paper reveals more needs to be done to protect citizens

The UK government will introduce laws to make the UK a safer place to be online, after the results of a consultation revealed users feel powerless to protect themselves as technology firms operate without sufficient oversight.

The announcement is in response to the government’s internet safety strategy green paper, which was announced in October 2017 and published over the weekend (19 May). It found 60% of people said they had witnessed inappropriate or harmful content online.

The government said that while it is already working with social media companies to protect users and some tech companies have improved safety, “the performance of the industry overall has been mixed”.

The UK government will work with tech companies, children’s charities and other stakeholders to develop new legislation.

“Digital technology is overwhelmingly a force for good across the world and we must always champion innovation and change for the better,” said Matt Hancock, secretary of state at the department for digital, culture, media and sports (DCMS).

“At the same time, I have been clear that we have to address the Wild West elements of the internet through legislation, in a way that supports innovation. We strongly support technology companies to start up and grow, and we want to work with them to keep our citizens safe.

“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,” he said. “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.”

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DCMS will work with the Home Office on a white paper with other government departments, to be published later this year, which will set out legislation to tackle problems from cyber bullying to online child sexual exploitation.

Sajid Javid, UK home secretary, said: “Criminals are using the internet to further their exploitation and abuse of children, while terrorists are abusing these platforms to recruit people and incite atrocities.

“We need to protect our communities from these heinous crimes and vile propaganda, and that is why this government has been taking the lead on this issue. But more needs to be done, and this is why we will continue to work with the companies and the public to do everything we can to stop the misuse of these platforms. Only by working together can we defeat those who seek to do us harm.”

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