New laws ‘to protect online rights’

Published: Saturday 11th April 2015 by The News Editor

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New laws to protect people’s rights online would be introduced within the first six months of a new coalition government under Liberal Democrat plans.

The move would strengthen data protection laws, with beefed up powers for the Information Commissioner and the threat of prison sentences for firms illegally selling personal information.

Other measures contained in the proposed Digital Rights Bill include a code of practice for websites to correct defamatory or inaccurate information, although the Lib Dems insisted this would be matched with safeguards to protect free speech online.

The plans also include enshrining in law the responsibility of the government to defend press freedom for journalists and citizen journalists online.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has launched a consultation on the package, which will also give legal rights to compensation for consumers duped by misleading or unreadable terms and conditions and measures to prevent the government watering down c yber-security and encryption measures relied on by British businesses.

Mr Clegg said: The way in which we work, socialise, buy products and use services has changed at lightning speed since the digital revolution.

“However, government and politicians have responded at snail’s pace, with a poor understanding of new technology and the impact it is having on our lives. We need to ensure that consumers, businesses, journalists and our children are protected in the online world.

“Our Digital Bill of Rights will finally enshrine into law our rights as citizens of this country to privacy, to stop information about our lives being misused, and to protect our right to freedom of speech.”

Setting out the measures on user-generated content such as blogs or social media posts, the consultation document states that “everyone should be able to access, edit or remove any online content which they themselves have created”.

This would not extend to publicly-available content which has been reproduced or shared by other users, the document said.

But the consultation adds: ” Where content refers to an individual but was not created by them, online services should follow a code of practice by which that content can be corrected, in a timely manner, where it is inaccurate or defamatory.

“The code of practice will be developed in consultation with industry and civil society groups to ensure strong protections for freedom of speech.”

Setting out measures to protect freedom of expression, the consultation states that the right “applies online just as it does in the offline world”.

It continues: “Government has a responsibility to uphold the right to free expression online, which extends to expression in all its forms – including text, videos, audio recordings, and other forms of public communication.

“Government has a responsibility to defend the free press, including the rights of journalists and citizen journalists to express their views freely online.”

This responsibility should specifically extend to services and websites that host but do not write material, as the cay be “particularly prone to pressure to remove lawful content”, the document states.

Published: Saturday 11th April 2015 by The News Editor

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