The UK government will require social media and tech platforms to provide identity verification through options like ID document verification and face biometrics as a proposed measure against anonymous online trolls, according to an official announcement.
The suggested additions to the Online Safety Bill will mean online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Google must have options for identity checks like face biometrics, two-factor authentication through the individual’s phone, or government-issued ID document checks for creating or updating a social media account. The additions to the bill would allow users to block unverified accounts from messaging or replying.
UK media regulator Ofcom will set guidance on how companies can fulfill the user verification requirement.
Tech companies would have to develop tools that allow users to filter out material that is “legal but harmful.” The protections could include settings that prevent users from receiving recommendations about certain topics and place ‘sensitivity screens’ over such material. Failure to comply with the regulations could warrant fines of up to 10 percent of a company’s global annual revenues or being blocked from the UK, CNBC reports. The bill would also add three additional offenses from online content such as a ‘genuinely threatening’ communications offense.
The revision to the Online Safety Bill builds on previous proposals to enforce age verification on adult sites, stamp out harmful and illegal content distributed online, and protect young users from harm with methods which may include biometrics-based checks.
UK Digital Minister Nadine Dorries was quoted by CNBC as saying, “Tech firms have a responsibility to stop anonymous trolls polluting their platforms. People will now have more control over who can contact them and be able to stop the tidal wave of hate served up to them by rogue algorithms.”
Twitter responded to the proposed additions, saying anonymity is “a vital tool for speaking out in oppressive regimes,” and for democratic societies, according to CNBC. The news outlet also cites a spokesman for an internet freedom advocacy group who criticized the bill.
The UK government says the Online Safety Bill will protect democratic rights like freedom of expression and journalism, while clamping down on abusive content like racial abuse.