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Regular readers will know that, as an Internet Service Provider (ISP), our preference is to be – as The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 call it – a ‘mere conduit’ whose role is to move bits of data, rather than being a policeman of them. An unlikely ally for this view is the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation, which includes provisions for all of us to actively minimise the amount of personal data we hold, hence reducing the risk of data loss.

The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 would have ISPs do the precise opposite however, and retain data about users. Pressure group Liberty were recently granted leave to challenge this controversial legislation in the High Court.

There’s been much coverage of the announcement in the Queen’s Speech of “A commission for countering extremism will be established to support the government in stamping out extremist ideology in all its forms, both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to spread.” We await the details of what the effect will be on ISPs – suffice it to say that we don’t hold our breath of being able to maintain our stance of being a ‘mere conduit’. Similarly, reports of “legal liability for tech companies if they fail to remove inflammatory content” are clearly of concern to our industry, if the proposal is to apply them at network level. It’s one thing to store what users are looking at, quite another to evaluate the nature of the content.

Of course tech firms aren’t taking this lying down. Facebook, YouTube,Twitter and Microsoft took steps of their own with their launch last week of a new ‘Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism’, but whether such voluntary action is enough to calm political calls for ‘legal liability’ remains to be seen.

While this debate plays out, partners with customers who need to take local measures to counter extremism (such as schools) should talk to us about our Sonicwall content filtering solutions, which provide practical protection for specific environments.

Have your say!

Do you think government understands the complexities of identifying, monitoring and removing inappropriate content? Are tech firms doing enough or could they improve? Have your say with a comment below.

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