Queen’s Speech to Parliament Highlights New Rules for Big Tech

The U.K. government revealed today (May 10) its legislative agenda for the next parliamentary session. The Queen´s Speech, this year delivered by Prince Charles, unveiled 38 bills that touch upon areas from reducing regional inequality — the center of  Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign — to a proposal that could create a new Big Tech watchdog.  

The following are the most relevant bills affecting digital markets that the government is planning to debate and approve in the next few months. 

Online Safety Bill 

Carried over from the previous parliamentary session, the legislation seeks to curb online harm by significantly increasing the responsibilities of Big Tech firms to monitor the content posted on their platforms. 

Read more: UK´s Online Safety Bill Comes With Possible Jail Time for Violators

The core concept of the Online Safety bill is the imposition of a new online duty of care on platforms, requiring the removal of illegal content. For “high-risk, high-reach” services, this will extend to material that is lawful but harmful. 

The bill has already been introduced in parliament, but it still needs the approval of the House of Commons and the House of Lords before it becomes law. If the parliament approves the bill, it may become law by the end of the year.   

Brexit Freedoms Bill 

The main purpose of the legislation is to allow the government to amend, repeal or replace the large amounts of retained EU law without having to propose new primary legislation each time. 

According to the government, these reforms will cut £1 billion of red tape for U.K. businesses, ease regulatory burdens and contribute to the government’s mission to unite and level up the country. 

Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill 

This bill would make provisions in three areas: Part 1 would introduce a register of the beneficial owners of overseas entities that owned land in the U.K.; Part 2 would make changes to strengthen unexplained wealth orders; and Part 3 would make changes to sanctions legislation to help deter and prevent breaches of financial sanctions. 

In a more detailed analysis, this bill will seek to crack down on illicit finance, including by creating new powers to seize crypto assets more quickly and increasing powers to check information on a company register. This bill is being fast-tracked through its stages in Parliament and it could become law soon. 

Media Bill 

This legislation is designed to allow the government to privatize Channel 4, which the government says will enable it to “continue to thrive and grow.” However, passing this law may not be easy as it faces opposition from the Labour Party and some Tory MPs. Lawmakers warned that the privatization could lead to the channel being “gobbled up” by U.S. media companies. 

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill 

The first part of the bill (product security) will require manufacturers, importers and distributors of smart devices to comply with minimum security standards. 

See also: Vodafone to Prioritize 4G and 5G Rollout by Retiring 3G Network in UK in 2023

The second part of the bill (telecommunication) will support a quick and efficient rollout of gigabit-capable broadband and 5G networks in a way that balances the interests of landowners, telecom operators and the public. 

Data Reform Bill 

The legislation will reform the UK’s data protection regime, replacing the “highly-complex” regulations inherited from the European Union with a system “focused on privacy outcomes rather than box-ticking.” 

Draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill 

A bill aimed at creating a new tech watchdog with powers to sanction Big Tech companies if they breach competition and consumer rules will only be discussed as a “draft bill.” This means that while the government is still planning to introduce legislation to underpin the Digital Markets Unit´s powers (DMU) it will do so in “due course,” and it may not be in the parliamentary session that starts today.  

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