Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom is Permanent Secretary at Large with especial responsibility for efficiency, globalisation and customer insight throughout Whitehall and beyond. He reports directly to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and was recently appointed the PM’s Technology Outreach Czar. He is acknowledged among the senior Civil Service as a moderniser and one of the most articulate proponents of technology in its various forms and ramifications.
He has gained vast experience in a widely varied career across the Cabinet Office, including a secondment in the Ministry of Defence. He is generally credited with authorship of the seminal “Nodiss” memo. He’s also a keen gardener and occasional author.
One thing that struck me is their insistence that Internet companies improve their proactivity in reviewing user-generated content, preferably before it is available for public consumption. However, they mention that:
Some providers claim that the provisions of the E-Commerce Directive restrict their ability to take down material before there have been complaints about it. Under regulation 17 of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 (which transpose the Directive into UK law), companies that transmit Internet content on behalf of others (such as a user’s profile page on a social networking site) cannot be held liable for anything illegal about the content if they did not initiate the transmission, select the receiver, or select or modify the information contained in the transmission. Nor is a service which hosts Internet content liable for damages or for any criminal sanction as a result of that storage if they do not have “actual knowledge” of unlawful activity or information and if, on becoming aware of such activity, they act “expeditiously” to remove or to disable access to the information.
It is easier for the host to avoid liability for defamation or anything unlawful if there is no moderation of user generated content prior to it becoming available to the public, provided there is a process for the quick removal of offending content. Moderating content makes the host liable!
An unintended consequence of the law, to be sure, but obviously something that must be kept in mind.
And you threw your toys out of the pram and refused to cooperate.
Do you think he would,
- Investigate regardless, perhaps initiating disciplinary proceedings, or
- Take a pragmatic approach and defer a decision about whether to launch an inquiry until next year.
Mark Wadsworth points out that two bodies set up by the Government to advise the Government on drugs have been ignored by the Government!
I wonder what will happen to the conclusions of the Human Genetics Commission and its Citizen’s Inquiry into the National DNA Database?
There should be an independent body with broad membership, constituted by statue [sic] specifically to oversee the NDNAD. It should be a function of this body to keep the public informed about the NDNAD and it should produce an annual report. …
A majority of participants concluded that samples should be destroyed and profiles removed from the NDNAD when a suspect is not proceeded against or an accused person is not convicted at the conclusion of criminal proceedings.
In other news, the Government has been selling our DNA, without our consent or knowledge. Where is the debate?
Internet users will be protected from abusive bloggers and malicious Facebook postings under proposals to set up an independent internet watchdog, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
Incredible! And what will protect us?
The body, made up of industry representatives, would be responsible for drawing up guidelines that social networking sites, the blogosphere, website owners and search engines would be expected to follow.
A set of guidelines! Amazing.
The recommendation is one of several that the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee is expected to make tomorrow (Thurs) in its long-awaited report on harmful content on the internet and in video games.
Under the proposals, the new internet watchdog would operate in a similar way to other industry bodies such as the Press Complaints Commission, which enforces a code of practice for the UK newspaper and magazine industry, covering accuracy, discrimination and intrusion.
The watchdog would not have any statutory powers to impose fines but would investigate complaints and most likely publish its decisions in instances when its guidelines have been breached.
It will “publish decisions” too – great.
It is understood that it would also be able to order bloggers and social networking sites such as Bebo and MySpace to take down offensive messages or photographs.
How? (legally and practically speaking)
A source who has seen the report said that the committee wanted to give the public “a form of redress” “At the moment consumers don’t know where to go if they want to complaint about something they have seen on the internet,” the source said. “The absence of any industry body is leading to a great deal of confusion and to widely differing practices.
Well, ok, many people aren’t au fait with the Intertubes and of course no-one should be expected to magically know their way around and everything about it. But surely anyone with an ounce of intelligence would think, “hmm I could look to see if there is a complaints procedure on the website”, to start with, or try commenting on the content or emailing the owner politely to see if they will edit/remove the offending content?
Then surely the next step would be to try looking for the Terms of Service (TOS) or Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP) of the blogging platform or ISP in question, to see if the content violated it, exhausting their complaints procedure.
Or in the extreme examples below, the individual should consider getting legal advice and/or making a complaint to the police.
“The idea is that a self-regulatory body like the Advertising Standards Authority would be set up to make sure that members, including, internet companies and search engines, subscribe to the code and abide by rulings.”
The proposals follow a rash of complaints about malicious and inaccurate postings on Facebook and other social networking sites.
A British businessman was last week awarded £22,000 libel damages from a school friend who made false accusations against him on a fake Facebook profile.
Mathew Firscht launched the High Court action after inaccurate claims about his sexuality and political viewers were posted on the site.
Oh so there is already redress available?
A woman also recently claimed that her life had been destroyed by strangers who stole her identity and set up a Facebook profile describing her as a prostitute.
Another case of libel there, and also such activities definitely violate Facebook’s terms.
Kerry Harvey, 23, received unsolicited calls from “punters” who found her details, including her date of birth and mobile phone number, on the site.
Proposals for an internet watchdog come only weeks after the Government pledged to set up a new UK Council for Child Internet Safety made up of figures from the Government, children’s charities, parents and young people.
Won’t Somebody Think of the Children?
The council, which will report to the Prime Minister, was one of the recommendations made by Dr Tanya Byron, the television psychologist, in her Government-commissioned report on the dangers of video games and unsupervised use of the internet.
Ministers also plan to launch a £9 million advertising campaign to raise awareness of the internet. Dr Byron’s report urged parents to take an interest in what their children were watching online.
She said that a “digital divide” was developing within families as children mastered the internet and video games while their parents, grandparents and carers too often had little clue about the material they were looking at.
Another extreme example is in a Daily Mail article:
Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at the online security firm Sophos, has first-hand knowledge of the problems online identity theft can create.
Fraudsters set up a page on Facebook and threatened to kill his wife and burn his house down.
That is clearly a criminal matter and something the police should be interested in.