Apple could be among the companies having to censor certain apps and websites as a result of new proposed U.K. laws. Designed to combat “harmful” content online, the new laws would give censorship power to independent regulators tasked with overseeing apps and websites.
The view of “harmful” content is a broad one, including terrorism, self-harm, hate speech, child abuse, and more. It would mean that the U.K. government could have a say on the content that Apple sells or offers to customers in the United Kingdom.
At present, the proposals are just that. According to Business Insider, the government is currently just “exploring” such plans. It has launched a three-month consultation, allowing interested parties and industry to offer their opinions. So far, the government has published a white paper on the project. This will be a precursor to possible legislation.
If passed, it would mean handing out fines to companies which fail to act to block harmful content.
What will Apple make of it?
It will be interesting to see what Apple has to say regarding the possible legislation. Back in late 2015, Apple publicly criticized the U.K.’s draft “snooper’s charter.” The proposed rules would have forced companies to create backdoors in encryption services like iMessage. Apple argued at the time that the rules would “hurt law-abiding citizens.”
However, Apple has also been a company which has taken steps to cut down on hate speech on its platform. As far back as Steve Jobs’ tenure as Apple CEO, the App Store was known for blocking certain content.
More recently, Apple has led the way in working to block controversial figures like Alex Jones from the App Store. It has also supported numerous initiatives, intended to block the spread of “fake news” on its platforms.
But the idea of having governments oversee the App Store would be a road Apple may not want to go down. It’s part of the overall push to make tech platforms more responsible for the content they host. In places like China, Apple has already had to remove certain apps ruled to violate local laws.
Will this proposed legislation go any further in the U.K.? We’ll keep you posted.