Emerging Tech Digest (January 2022)

19 Jan 2022

This extract is taken from the January 2022 issue of The Digest, GPD’s newsletter. Sign up here.

What can we expect for platform regulation in 2022?

2021 was a busy year for those following platform regulation and debates about online content. As we gear up for 2022, here’s a roundup of some of the key developments we saw last year, as reported on in our monthly Listening Post column.

  • In January, Austria’s Communication Platforms Act entered into force, and Polish lawmakers proposed the Law on the Protection of Freedom of Speech on Social Networking Sites. Both include strict time limits for larger platforms to remove illegal content, and the latter also proposes a new Freedom of Speech Council to oversee appeals of moderation decisions.
  • February saw the adoption of India’s Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, requiring private messaging platforms to be able to identify the original sender of mass messages upon court order, echoing the traceability and attribution requirement in Brazil’s Draft “Fake News” law from 2020.
  • In March, GPD responded to the call for input on Ireland’s General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, advocating for clearer recognition of Ireland’s obligations under international human rights law in the legislation and stronger protections for encrypted services. (Last month, the final Bill was published—see our thoughts on it here.) 
  • In April, the EU published its Regulation 2021/784 on addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online, requiring online platforms to remove “terrorist content” within one hour. This will come into force in June 2022. Also in this month, we submitted commentary on New Zealand’s Bill to tackle unlawful and harmful content online. Our recommendation to remove the web filtering provisions, also made by many other groups in New Zealand, was incorporated in the final version of the Bill. 
  • May saw the UK publish a draft of its Online Safety Bill. We remain concerned over many aspects of the draft Bill, including its inclusion of lawful but harmful content and its lack of safeguards for private and encrypted services.
  •  In June, Russia adopted a law requiring platforms to monitor for content which insults the Russian nation, encourages extremism or public disorder, or constitutes “disinformation of public importance”.
  • In July, Canada opened a consultation on proposals for a regulatory framework for harmful online content: see our response here
  • In August, following the passing of Australia’s Online Safety Act—which included an appeals mechanism for decisions made by the regulator, as we suggested in our consultation submission—the Australian government opened a consultation on the proposed Basic Online Safety Expectations. We pushed back on the proposed expectation to detect and address harmful material on encrypted services, suggesting that regulators focus on making providers strengthen user reporting systems and improve response times. 
  • In September, Chile proposed a Law to Regulate Digital Platforms which, while including certain protections for freedom of expression, drew criticism over its inconsistent approach to intermediary liability and overly broad scope. Singapore introduced (and then swiftly passed) its Foreign Interference (Counter-measures) Act allowing authorities to order platforms to remove or edit political content suspected to be shared on behalf of a foreign principal.
  • In October, Pakistan published its Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content 2021 Rules, despite concern from civil society that the rules go beyond their parent act and offer users no right to appeal. China opened a public consultation on Draft Guidelines on the Classification and Responsibilities of Internet Platforms, and, in Brazil, a legislative working group proposed a new draft of the “Fake News” law from 2020, in which the problematic traceability and attribution requirement had been removed
  • In November, Saudi Arabia opened a public consultation on its Draft Digital Content Platforms Regulations, and lawmakers in Brazil proposed a new Bill designed to protect younger users from “inappropriate content” through age verification mechanisms and age-appropriate filters. 
  • Finally, December saw Israel’s Social Networks Bill pass its first reading. If it becomes law, it will require social media platforms to take down illegal or defamatory content within 24 hours of being notified. 

Already in 2022, Ireland has published its Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill (see our commentary for a full analysis), and the European Parliament has adopted its draft of the Digital Services Act, including a ban on targeted ads based on sensitive user data. Also on our radar are proposals to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in the US, and Iran’s Cyberspace Users Rights Protection and Regulation of Key Online Services law, which is currently being fast-tracked through parliament. 

Keep an eye on our monthly Listening Post column—and take a look at Tech Against Terrorism’s Online Regulation Series—for further updates on platform regulation throughout 2022.