U.K. Conservatives Want to Dramatically Increase Internet Regulation

May 20, 2017, 6:55 PM UTC

In the run up to next month’s U.K. general election, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party is calling for greater government control of the Internet.

The Conservative platform issued on Thursday emphasizes the need for more online protections against abuse, more restrictions on pornographic or violent images, and a greater role for social networks in controlling the spread of extremist ideologies online.

U.K. polling currently show Conservatives in a commanding lead in the race for control of Parliament and the Prime Minister’s chair. If they retain power, a Conservative government would be in a position to implement its ideas. Unnamed Conservative advisers speaking to Buzzfeed News said such policies would be particularly targeted at Facebook and Google.

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Conservatives also want a heavier government hand in controlling how news is distributed online, and how the revenue it generates is distributed. The party’s platform pledges to both “protect the reliability and objectivity of information that is essential to our democracy” and to “ensure content creators are appropriately rewarded” for their work. That could include some form of a licensing fee that British newspapers have suggested social platforms should pay for content they show users.

The platform of the opposition Labour Party echoes some of the same recommendations for greater safety and control online. But the Conservative platform is distinct in its overall attitude about government’s role. “Our starting point is that online rules should reflect those that govern our lives offline,” one passage reads. Elsewhere, it states that while “some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet . . . We disagree.”

The platform further proposes a new system of financial sanctions to force compliance with content controls, similar to those that Google, Facebook, and others could soon face in Germany. That contrasts with the Conservative alliance’s broader rejection of heavy regulation in the European style, a major emphasis in the arguments for Brexit.

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