This week’s Techlaw News Round-up

October 6, 2023

UK law

Ofcom extends enforcement programme on age assurance measures on adult VSPs

Ofcom is extending its assessment and enforcement programme regarding age assurance measures on adult video-sharing platforms that are established in the UK for a further three months.  It says that this is because it is still assessing the age assurance measures of certain notified and non-notified adult VSPs. During the extended three month period, Ofcom intends, among other things, to conclude its assessments of notified smaller adult VSPs, taking steps to drive improvements to their age assurance measures and conclude its assessments of other potentially in scope non-notified VSPs.

UK government reviews broadband Universal Service Obligation

The broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) was launched in March 2020 and provides premises with the legal right to request a decent broadband service of at least 10 Megabits per second download and 1 Megabits per second upload, subject to meeting certain eligibility criteria. The Government is now consulting on whether changes are required to the broadband USO to ensure that it stays up to date with the current technical standards. If the government move ahead with any changes to the broadband USO a further consultation will take place on the specific nature of the changes. The consultation ends on 27 November 2023.

The government is also consulting on improving broadband for Very Hard to Reach premises.  This consultation also ends on 27 November.

ICO consults on draft Data Protection Fining Guidance

The ICO is consulting on new draft guidance about how it decides to issue penalty notices and calculate fines under the UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018. The guidance explains: the legal framework that gives the Information Commissioner the power to impose fines; the circumstances in which the Information Commissioner would consider it appropriate to issue a penalty notice; and how the Information Commissioner calculates the appropriate amount of the fine. The Data Protection Fining Guidance, when finalised, will replace the parts of the Regulatory Action Policy that explains the ICO’s current approach to imposing and calculating fines. The draft Data Protection Fining Guidance is relevant to all controllers and processors. It does not change the ICO’s current approach to public sector enforcement, outlined by the Commissioner in June 2022. The draft Data Protection Fining Guidance only applies in relation to fines imposed under UK GDPR and DPA 2018. It is not applicable to fines under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. The consultation also ends on 27 November.

BitChute improves its safety measures following engagement with Ofcom

Video-sharing platform BitChute is improving its safety measures after Ofcom raised concerns about their effectiveness following a mass shooting that took place last year in Buffalo, New York. After the attack was livestreamed online, versions of the footage spread across multiple online services, including BitChute – potentially exposing people to terrorist content. Ahead of taking on new powers when the Online Safety Bill becomes law, Ofcom already regulates video-sharing platforms (VSPs) based in the UK. When it became apparent the Buffalo attack had been livestreamed, Ofcom arranged to meet senior representatives of regulated VSPs to understand the measures they had in place to protect their users from these types of videos. It raised concerns with BitChute that its reporting and flagging and content moderation measures may not have been effectively protecting users from encountering videos related to terrorism. BitChute is now tripling the size of its moderation team by taking on more human moderators; increasing the number of hours that moderators are available to review reports so it has a safety team operational 24/7; and allowing non-registered users to directly report potentially harmful content.

Law Commission seeks views on electronic wills

The Law Commission is seeking views on whether a new Wills Act should permit electronic wills, either immediately or by allowing for them to be introduced later. Any provision for electronic wills would need to ensure that they are as secure as paper wills. An electronic will can be created digitally, using electronic signatures, and can be stored, with no paper version needed. The law on wills is primarily a product of the Victorian era, governed by the Wills Act 1837 and case law. The Law Commission’s project aims to provide a comprehensive review ensuring that the legislative framework governing wills reflects contemporary needs and continues to protect the most vulnerable.  The consultation ends on 8 December 2023.