After Terror Attacks, Britain Moves to Police the Web
By MARK SCOTT
Jun 19 2017
After deadly terrorist attacks and a nationwide election, Britain is once again focusing on a controversial plan: to regulate the internet.
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum are promoting some of the widest-ranging plans anywhere in the western world to rein in the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter, setting up a likely standoff.
On one side are British policy makers and law enforcement officials, who want to crack down on how extremist messaging and communication are spread across the internet. On the other are privacy and freedom of speech groups — alongside the tech giants themselves — who say that the government’s proposals go too far.
Similar debates are popping up around the world.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation took legal action against Apple last year to force the company to decrypt a suspected terrorist’s iPhone. American law enforcement eventually used a third-party service to gain access to the smartphone.
In Germany, lawmakers are pushing ahead with fines of up to 50 million euros, or $56 million, if Silicon Valley companies do not limit how online hate speech circulates on their social networks.
Recent legislation already gives Britain’s law enforcement officials some of the world’s strongest powers to read and monitor online chatter from potential extremists.
Now the country’s politicians want to go further.
In its electoral manifesto and in speeches by senior politicians, the governing Conservative Party outlined proposals to offer security officials more ways to keep tabs on potential extremists. Theresa May, the prime minister, raised the issue at a recent Group of 7 meeting and in talks with President Emmanuel Macron of France.
But if the proposals are pushed through, there will be costs.
The Conservatives now rule with a minority in Parliament, and will most likely have to rely on other parties for support. That may necessitate compromise or horse trading.
And the additional measures could hurt Britain’s effort to court new investment from the global tech sector as it prepares to leave the European Union.