- Some U.K. lawmakers are concerned that the current proposals in the upcoming Online Safety Bill don't go far enough.
- In a report published Tuesday, a joint committee on the draft bill said more offences should be brought within the scope of the bill.
- The committee is calling for a plethora of online activities to be outlawed including the promotion of self-harm online, deepfake pornography (AI-generated porn) and targeting epilepsy sufferers with flashing images online.
LONDON — A group of British lawmakers said Tuesday that "major changes" need to be made to the U.K.'s upcoming Online Safety Bill.
The draft bill is a proposed new piece of legislation that's designed to make the internet a safer place for people in the U.K.
However, some lawmakers are concerned that the current proposals don't go far enough.
In a report published Tuesday, the U.K. Parliament's joint committee on the draft bill said more offences should be brought within the scope of the proposed law.
"We're bringing in a lot more offences onto the face of the bill that deal with things like promoting self harm, racial abuse and other forms of abuse," Damian Collins, a lawmaker and chair of the committee, told CNBC, adding that it should be clear what the tech companies' responsibilities are.
The regulator should be able to say to the tech companies "these are the minimum standards you've got to hit" and explain what needs to be done in each category of harm, Collins added.
The committee also wants online fraud and scam advertising to be included in the bill's scope and an ombudsman to consider individual complaints.
Users should also be able to take tech companies to courts if they fail to meet their obligations under the act, Collins said, adding that named directors should be subject to criminal liability when they fail to disclose information that has been asked for or fail to comply with the act.
"These would be quite big changes to the way this [bill] works," Collins said. "The core thing is it's taking existing offences and law and applying them online and that the regulator has the legal power to do that.
The committee is calling for a plethora of online activities to be outlawed including the promotion of self-harm online, deepfake pornography (AI-generated porn) and targeting epilepsy sufferers with flashing images online.
More powers for Ofcom?
TV and radio regulator Ofcom was put in charge of regulating the internet in the U.K. in February.
The committee said the government should give Ofcom more powers to investigate, audit and fine Big Tech, adding that the regulator should also be able to set the standards by which Big Tech will be held accountable.
"The era of self-regulation for big tech has come to an end," said Collins. "The companies are clearly responsible for services they have designed and profit from, and need to be held to account for the decisions they make."
Elsewhere in the U.K., the Competition and Markets Authority and the Information Commissioner's Office also have the ability to impose fines and penalties on technology companies.
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok have all been criticized by lawmakers in the U.K. and other parts of the world for allowing harmful content to be shared on their platforms. They say they're doing their best to remove it, but many lawmakers aren't satisfied.
During the U.K. inquiry, MPs and peers heard from victims of online harms including ex-Manchester United player Rio Ferdinand and TV presenter Martin Lewis. The inquiry also involved Facebook whistleblowers Frances Haugen and Sophie Zhang.
The bill is set to be put to Parliament for approval in 2022.