UK government

UK media giants call for independent oversight of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter

The UK’s leading broadcasters and ISPs have called for the government to introduce independent regulatory oversight of social media content. The group of media and broadband operators in the tightly regulated industries spans both the state-funded and commercial sector — with the letter to the Sunday Telegraph being inked with signatures from the leaders of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, BT and TalkTalk. They argue there’s an “urgent” need for independent oversight of social media, and counter suggestions that such a move would amount to censorship by pointing out that tech companies are already making choices about what to allow (or not) on their platforms. They are argue independent oversight is necessary to ensure “accountability and transparency” over those...

Study flags poor-quality working conditions for remote gig workers

An Oxford University study of remote gig economy work conducted on digital platforms has highlighted poor-quality working conditions with implications for employees’ well-being. The research comes at a time when political scrutiny is increasingly falling on algorithmically controlled platforms and their societal impacts. Policymakers are also paying greater attention to the precarious reality for workers on platforms that advertise their gig marketplaces to new recruits with shiny claims of “flexibility” and “autonomy.” Governments in some regions are also actively reassessing employment law to take account of technology-fueled shifts to work and working patterns. Earlier this year, for instance, the U.K. government announced a package of labor market reforms — and committed to being respo...

Fake news inquiry calls for social media levy to defend democracy

A UK parliamentary committee which has been running a multi-month investigation into the impact of online disinformation on political campaigning — and on democracy itself — has published a preliminary report highlighting what it describes as “significant concerns” over the risks to “shared values and the integrity of our democratic institutions”. It’s calling for “urgent action” from government and regulatory bodies to “build resilience against misinformation and disinformation into our democratic system”. “We are faced with a crisis concerning the use of data, the manipulation of our data, and the targeting of pernicious views,” the DCMS committee warns. “In particular, we heard evidence of Russian state-sponsored attempts to influence elections in the US and the UK through social media,...

Drone development should focus on social good first, says UK report

A UK government backed drone innovation project that’s exploring how unmanned aerial vehicles could benefit cities — including for use-cases such as medical delivery, traffic incident response, fire response and construction and regeneration — has reported early learnings from the first phase of the project. Five city regions are being used as drone test-beds as part of Nesta’s Flying High Challenge — namely London, the West Midlands, Southampton, Preston and Bradford. While five socially beneficial use-cases for drone technology have been analyzed as part of the project so far, including considering technical, social and economic implications of the tech. The project has been ongoing since December. Nesta, the innovation-focused charity behind the project and the report, wants the UK to b...

Researchers find that filters don’t prevent porn

In a paper entitled Internet Filtering and Adolescent Exposure to Online Sexual Material, Oxford Internet Institute researchers Victoria Nash and Andrew Przybylski found that Internet filters rarely work to keep adolescents away from online porn. “It’s important to consider the efficacy of Internet filtering,” said Dr, Nash. “Internet filtering tools are expensive to develop and maintain, and can easily ‘underblock’ due to the constant development of new ways of sharing content. Additionally, there are concerns about human rights violations – filtering can lead to ‘overblocking’, where young people are not able to access legitimate health and relationship information.” This research follows the controversial news that the UK government was exploring a country-wide porn filter, a product th...

The UK and USA need to extend their “special relationship” to technology development

Matt Hancock Contributor The UK and the USA have always had an enduring bond, with diplomatic, cultural and economic ties that have remained firm for centuries. We live in an era of profound change, and are living with technologies set to change things ever faster. If Britain and America work together to develop these technologies for the good of mankind, in a way that is open and free, yet also safe and good for our citizens, we can maintain the global lead our nations have enjoyed in the fields of innovation. Over past months we have seen some very significant strides forward in this business relationship. All of the biggest US companies have made decisions to invest in the UK. Apple is developing a new HQ in the iconic Battersea Power Station, close to the new US embassy, while Google i...

UK report urges action to combat AI bias

The need for diverse development teams and truly representational data-sets to avoid biases being baked into AI algorithms is one of the core recommendations in a lengthy Lords committee report looking into the economic, ethical and social implications of artificial intelligence, and published today by the upper House of the UK parliament. “The main ways to address these kinds of biases are to ensure that developers are drawn from diverse gender, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and are aware of, and adhere to, ethical codes of conduct,” the committee writes, chiming with plenty of extant commentary around algorithmic accountability. “It is essential that ethics take centre stage in AI’s development and use,” adds committee chairman, Lord Clement-Jones, in a statement. “The UK has a ...

UK outs extremism blocking tool and could force tech firms to use it

The UK government’s pressure on tech giants to do more about online extremism just got weaponized. The Home Secretary has today announced a machine learning tool, developed with public money by a local AI firm, which the government says can automatically detect propaganda produced by the Islamic State terror group with “an extremely high degree of accuracy”. The technology is billed as working across different types of video-streaming and download platforms in real-time, and is intended to be integrated into the upload process — as the government wants the majority of video propaganda to be blocked before it’s uploaded to the Internet. So yes this is content moderation via pre-filtering — which is something the European Commission has also been pushing for. Though it’s a highly controversi...