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UK tech crackdown could miss goals after soccer racism – POLITICO

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London MPs want to give the tech giant a shot at England’s racist online abuse of a Euro 2020 football player, but critics fear they’ll eventually hit the crossbar.

British ministers say they plan to help social media companies better deal with the hatred targeting some of England’s youngsters after a heartbreaking match against Italy on Sunday night.

But amid concerns that the proposed law puts too much power in the hands of social media companies and the bigger problems of law enforcement and going beyond the tone set by senior politicians, the big question is whether the proposed law will actually achieve its goal. This remains.

Marcus Rashford, Jaden Sancho and Bukayo Saka all blasted racist messages on social media after Sunday night’s penalty shoot-out against Italy. The move provoked swift condemnation by the Football Association of England (FA), and Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday night urged fans, who were aiming for the players, to “climb under the rock you came from”.

In the aftermath of the incident, Downing Street pointed to the UK’s leading draft online safety legislation, introduced in May, as a key way to combat online abuse.

The bill, which will be reviewed by a group of members of various political parties before being put to a vote later this year, has been in the making for a long time.

This plan imposes a duty of care on users of social media platforms implemented by the telecommunication regulator Ofcom. Companies that do not comply may be subject to fines of up to 18 million or 10% of annual global sales, whichever is greater.

self-regulation

The opposition Labor Party’s shadow culture minister, Jo Stevens, is not convinced that the current proposal will address the abuses inflicted on the British side.

“If you were Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho or Bukayo Saka, you would have to do what you are doing. Basically, you have to file a complaint with the platform itself and wait a very long time to determine whether the content posted violates the platform. “But that’s all,” Stevens told POLITICO. It’s still essentially a self-regulating system.”

The draft bill does not have guidelines on the fight against anonymous abuse, and there is no code of conduct on the fight against racism, Stevens said.

Labor wants a law enacted that would immediately hold social media executives criminally accountable for the failure of the UK government’s backup powers to retain reserve powers and bring them back later if needed.

As for the current plan, Stevens said of the current plan, “The platform can basically continue to operate as it is today. “Abuse will continue to spread freely and amplify.”

A spokesperson for the British Ministry of Culture, which oversees the bill, said the law would “come against abuse of anonymity”, but the government would “avoid an outright ban on online anonymity for some groups, such as those who search for sexuality or suffer from disease.” want,” he said. Domestic violence is important.”

“But all social media companies must do their due diligence, which means we need to stop habitual offenders from opening new accounts and work with authorities to make it easier to find people who created accounts anonymously to abuse others. do.”

‘loophole’

However, concerns are also being felt by the English Football Association. Edleen John, the FA’s head of equality, diversity and inclusion, says the bill should be aware that it’s not always “clear words” when it comes to online abuse.

“Sometimes it’s going to be an emoji, sometimes it’s going to pile up,” she said. “Sometimes abuse is technically legal, but of course it’s just as damaging and has the same psychological impact as abuse. If someone calls you a discriminatory term or abusive language.”

English players have been targeted by the monkey emoji, a racist symbol in some contexts, and John points out that it could expose a “loophole” in the platform’s community standards.

“If I have a son or daughter and I call them cheeky little monkeys and use emoji, it’s not the same as when I use an emoji aimed at a black soccer player who just missed a penalty, or I played a bad game,” he warned. “Actually, the problem [platforms’] Community standards don’t provide enough clear or strict guidelines or guidelines for organizations to use and follow.”

Poppy Wood, senior adviser to Reset, a lobby group set up by former Hillary Clinton aide Ben Scott to push new tech regulations, said it’s still unclear whether the draft bill will address the underlying problem. Although harassment is illegal, she points out, most individual cases of abuse are not against the law, even if they are disgusting and insulting.

She believes the bill should force social media companies to improve the underlying system, rather than requiring them to write rules for content deemed unacceptable.

This could mean taking steps to reduce the amplification of certain posts or reducing the revenue of hateful content. “We have the right to make a statement, but we don’t have the right to reach the largest possible audience,” Wood said. “The draft bill doesn’t fully reflect this, but it can be done very easily.”

‘Instant Tracking’

Others say that if online abuse is serious, enforcement of existing laws should be a top priority for governments.

Heather Burns, Policy Manager at the Open Rights Group, said, “Governments should get police and judicial systems to enforce existing criminal laws rather than evade responsibility by making social media platforms a problem.” “Social media sites do not run courts and prisons.”

With social media platforms already being able to “pass the details to law enforcement,” Burns points out, virtually “every current wave of abuse can be immediately tracked to the individual who shared it.”

Former Conservative Cabinet Secretary David Davis, a longtime civil liberty advocate, said he believes Sunday’s abuse could spark a “popular movement” call for change. But he warned lawmakers to “take your time and think calmly and calmly.”

In addition to social media, there are also esoteric questions about how the Johnson government itself is challenging racism.

His administration has already sent mixed messages about the kneeling, an anti-racism protest started by football player Colin Kaepernick. Downing Street said Johnson had “focused more on action than on gestures” after England players protested ahead of their Euro 2020 game last month. Interior Minister Pretty Patel dismissed the move as “gesture politics” and rejected criticism of fans booing players who knelt before the game.

Johnson was asked again about the protests at a Downing Street press conference on Monday and said he had always believed that “people should be free to show respect and show how much they condemn racism in this country in the way they choose.”

That’s a face not lost to England centre-back Tyrone Mings. He told Patel on Monday night: “When that very thing happened, which was campaigning against after labeling our anti-racist message with gesture politics at the beginning of the convention, you wouldn’t be able to set fire to it while pretending to be disgusting.”

This article is part of Pro Technology, the coverage of POLITICO’s premium technology policy. Our suite of expert journalism and policy intelligence tools enable you to seamlessly discover, track and understand the stakeholders that shape EU technology policy and drive industry-affecting decisions. e-mail [email protected] Use the code TECH for a free trial.

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