Online platforms now have the legal obligation to take “proactive, preventative action” against any state-sponsored disinformation, under a new government amendment.
The change will link the National Security Bill and the Online Safety Bill by adding a new Foreign Interference Offence to the list of priority offences within the new internet safety rules.
“We cannot allow foreign states or their puppets to use the internet to conduct hostile online warfare unimpeded,” said digital secretary Nadine Dorries.
“That’s why we are strengthening our new internet safety protections to make sure social media firms identify and root out state-backed disinformation.”
Under the new legislation, platforms will need to tackle bots as well as do risk assessment for illegal content and put in place systems and processes to avoid the chance of users encountering misleading contents.
To help stakeholders carry out such duties, stakeholders will draw on Ofcom’s codes of practice.
The regulator will also have the power to fine companies who fail to comply with the new regulation with fines of up to 10 per cent of their annual global turnover.
Currently making its way through Parliament, the Online Safety Bill was accused of leading to accidental infringements to the freedom of speech.
According to a briefing paper from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), by imposing on platforms the duty to protect users, the bill could risk causing “one of the most significant accidental infringements on free speech in modern times.”
The think tank said the legislation will give Dorries and Ofcom “unprecedented powers to define and limit speech, with limited parliamentary or judicial oversight,” while hampering innovation.