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UK set to tighten internet laws to counter Russia

The law would tackle fake accounts on platforms such as Meta's Facebook and Twitter that were set up on behalf of foreign states to influence elections or court proceedings

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Britain is proposing a new law that will require social media companies to proactively tackle disinformation posted by foreign states such as Russia, the government said on Monday.

The law would tackle fake accounts on platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Twitter that were set up on behalf of foreign states to influence elections or court proceedings, the government said.

The law is likely to be passed during this parliamentary session through an amendment to link the National Security Bill and Online Safety Bill, both of which are in the government’s current programme.

Read more: Russia’s realist take on Ukraine

Communications regulator Ofcom will draw up codes of practice to help social media companies comply with the law, and will have the power to issue fines for infringement.

Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said on Monday the invasion of Ukraine has shown how Russia uses social media to spread lies about its actions.

“We cannot allow foreign states or their puppets to use the internet to conduct hostile online warfare unimpeded,” she said. “That’s why we are strengthening our new internet safety protections to make sure social media firms identify and root out state-backed disinformation.”

New registration laws for the UK

The idea echoes the 1938 US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires Americans and non-Americans alike to disclose if they are working on behalf of foreign governments, register with the US Department of Justice and report on their own activities.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News: “We are looking at additional powers to look at the activities of hostile states and that may include introducing new laws.”

These new laws could include “something like the foreign agent registration laws that exist for example in the US and Australia.”

Read more: Ex-U.S. intel operatives admit to working as spies for UAE

The Russia report, which accused the government of carelessness and underestimating Moscow, recommended updating Britain’s espionage laws, explicitly citing FARA as an example to emulate.

Reuters with additional input by GVS News Desk

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