This Week’s Techlaw News Round-Up

December 8, 2023

UK law

DSIT launches review on illegal porn, abuse and exploitation in porn industry

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has launched a review to advise the UK government on how to deal with the negative effects of pornography on users and society. The review will build on the Online Safety Act, by stopping children from accessing pornography online by requiring services to establish the age of their users, including through age verification and age estimation tools. It will review how viewing pornography affects users of all ages, including emerging challenges from AI generated pornography. It will also review both the current rules placed upon the pornography industry and other services that host pornographic content, and whether law enforcers have the tools they need to identify and tackle illegal pornographic content. The review will examine how the police can be helped to identify exploitation and abuse in the industry, as well as identifying what barriers there are to enforcing the law and punishing those committing offences. In particular, the review has been tasked to consider the links between the pornography industry and the prevalence of human trafficking and exploitation and users’ attitudes towards women and girls. The review will then recommend to government what more could be done to address these challenges and provide support and guidance to those who need it on the potentially harmful impacts of pornography.

IPO issues update on examination of patent applications involving artificial neural networks (ANN)

On 21 November 2023 the High Court handed down its judgment in Emotional Perception AI Ltd v Comptroller-General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks [2023] EWHC 2948 (Ch). The judgment concerned an invention involving an artificial neural network and the question whether it is excluded subject matter under the “program for a computer” exclusion of section 1(2)(c) of the Patents At 1977. The judgment stated that the invention is not excluded as a program for a computer. The judgment overturns the earlier decision of the Comptroller in BL O/542/22. Following the judgment, the IPO is making an immediate change to practice for the examination of ANNs for excluded subject matter. Patent Examiners should not object to involving an ANN under the “program for a computer” exclusion of section 1(2)(c) of the Patents Act 1977.

UK government announces agreement to tackle online fraud

The government has said that fraud is the most common crime in the UK and has joined forces with various tech companies, including Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Match Group, Microsoft, Snapchat, TikTok, X (Twitter) and YouTube. They are working to develop and commit to the Online Fraud Charter Services to introduce measures to help protect people from fraud and scam content when using their sites. Actions include verifying new advertisers and promptly removing any fraudulent content. There will also be increased levels of verification on peer-to-peer marketplaces, and people using online dating services will have the opportunity to prove they are who they say they are. The charter will be supported by action the Online Advertising Programme.

EU law

European Commission launches new database to track digital services terms and conditions

The European Commission has launched the Digital Services Terms and Conditions Database, which features the terms and conditions of digital services, with a focus on online platforms such as social media, app stores or marketplaces. This database is a Commission initiative, which complements the various transparency requirements introduced by the Digital Services Act, including the obligation for online platforms to provide an easily understandable, plain-language summary of their terms and conditions, in the languages of the Member States where they operate.

European Commission request information from Meta under Digital Services Act

The Commission is requesting Meta to provide additional information on the measures it has taken to comply with its obligations to assess risks and take effective mitigation measures linked to the protection of minors, including regarding the circulation of self-generated child sexual abuse material (SG-CSAM) on Instagram. Information is also requested about Instagram’s recommender system and amplification of potentially harmful content. Meta must provide the requested information to the Commission by 22 December 2023. Based on the assessment of the replies, the Commission will assess next steps. This could involve the formal opening of proceedings under Article 66 of the DSA. Under Article 74 (2) of the DSA, the Commission can impose fines for incorrect, incomplete, or misleading the information by formal Decision. In this case, failure to reply by the deadline could lead to the imposition of periodic penalty payments. Following its designation as a Very Large Online Platform, Meta’s platform Instagram is required to comply with the full set of provisions introduced by the DSA, including the assessment and mitigation of rights, including on children’s rights, and on the protection of minors.

Irish Digital Services Bill 2023 published

The Irish Digital Services Bill has been published. The Digital Services Act (Regulation (EU) 2022/2065) came into force in EU law on 16 November 2022 and will fully apply in member states from 17 February 2024. While many of the obligations, such as requirements on providers with national legislative measures. In particular, Ireland is obliged to designate and empower a competent authority, known as the Digital Services Coordinator, to supervise and implement the Digital Services Act. Coimisiún na
Meán was established by the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022 on 15 March 2023. The Irish government has decided that it will designate Coimisiún na Meán as the Digital Services Coordinator. The General Scheme give effect to that decision and provides for some miscellaneous other matters, such as the liability regime for providers of online intermediary services and the harmonisation of Court Orders to take down illegal content from online services. The General Scheme should be read in conjunction with the EU Regulation, the Digital Services Act and the Broadcasting Act 2009, as amended by the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022. It implements the EU law and supplements the 2022 Act with provisions that are specifically required for Coimisiún na Meán in its role as the Digital Services Coordinator.