October 20, 2022

Will ID Be Compulsory to Use Social Media?

The introduction of photo ID in order to be able to use social media platforms is one that has long been debated, with strong arguments on both sides of the fence. Trolling is a big problem across social media and many feel that having to show your ID before you are entitled to an account could be one way to cut this down. Last year and early in 2022 it looked as though the introduction of ID would become compulsory but changes in government leadership have caused some doubt.

A Change in Social Media Proposals

With the shelving of The RT Hon Nadine Dorries MP’s proposals to give social media users more individual control over the content they are presented with online and further controls they can use to limit people’s interactions with them, the country is looking at the new government for an indication of Prime Minister Truss’s take on the situation and any action they are likely to take on this proposal. Online ID card proposals are one area of legislation that attracts media attention whenever the subject is raised.

With the latest proposals by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport having been published back in February, the media shockwave was felt as the strong measures they detailed were digested by the public and by the industries that would be affected.

It was hoped the detailed and strong measures they laid out would fight online abuse and hand control over to users to ensure they can effectively limit who interacts with them online.

The Online Safety Bill

Liz Truss has indeed confirmed that the proposed Online Safety Bill will be taken forward in parliament. But since the previous Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s government is no longer in charge, there will inevitably be some changes to the proposed bill.

At the time of confirmation, she said “We will be proceeding with the Online Safety Bill”, going on to say, “there may be some tweaks required”. What those tweaks will contain still remains uncertain. If the Online Safety Bill went ahead as proposed it would have far-reaching effects with obligations placed on online services providers to control any illegal, offensive, or harmful content on their own platforms. Liz Truss indicated there may be a definition change for the term “legal but harmful” possibly leading to a wider inclusion of harmful media within the proposed legislation. Amendments have surfaced detailing some aspects including online service providers’ requirements over the implementation of future legislation. Currently, the bill is being scrutinized before the House of Commons. It awaits its third reading, then it is probable the bill will be looked at by the House of Lords with the possibility of further amendments at that time.

This may seem slow, indeed the process of updating government legislation is often slower than some of the more progressive branches of industry are able to provide for themselves. This is nowhere more evident than in the gambling industry where extensive Know Your Customer (KYC) policies are already in place at regulated UK gambling sites. These policies and guidelines are used by the gambling industry to ensure their handling of a customer is safe and professional. Rigorous checks ensure their identity and that all requirements needed to comply with anti-money laundering legislation are met.

Alongside the gambling industry, other industries have taken KYC regulations seriously and to ensure compliance has put in place systems to ensure the safety of their customers. Industries like Estate Agency have taken large investments in technology and utilize systems provided by companies like LexisNexis to ensure they are compliant with anti-money laundering legislation. Many now require two-step verification for their online services.

Banks and financial institutions have some of the toughest Know Your Customer Requirements and rival the gambling industry in this respect. Banks have been quick to see the value of early adoption and this shows in their up-to-date processes.

The Popularity of Social Media

Of course, customers of banks and other financial institutions welcome these rigorous checks when it comes to keeping their money safe. But when the same requirements are applied to social media some of those same people are less keen. Whilst citing topics like freedom of speech and the right to anonymity some people are skeptical of the way any future legislation would be implemented when it comes to social media.

Adult sites too will likely be affected and this brings a question over people’s freedom to look at these sites and what they contain. With questions alongside the obvious need to exclude those under the required age comes one of censorship and wider human rights to freedom of expression.

It’s these questions that have led industries to self-regulate and improve their own internal guidelines and procedures to ensure the safety of their customers. Sometimes over and above current legislative requirements. This continues to lead to great improvements in those industries and maintains their ability to react quickly to the ever-changing needs of their customers and improvements in technology.

The Restriction of Social Media

Understandably social media platforms are worried by the possibility of restrictions and requirements the future bill will place on them. Historically many online problems have originated on social media platforms and they have reacted by imposing restrictions and terms of service designed to protect their users. The scale of the upcoming bill will in some ways dictate how well they have performed this task and to the extent, they will need to be vigilant in the future. However, it is worth keeping in mind that whilst social media is one of the prevalent things mentioned in the upcoming reports, it is things like adult entertainment and adult-only websites that are also affected. You already have to show a photo ID in order to join an online casino and prove that you are over the age of 18 and it could be that other websites have this same requirement in the future – that remains to be seen!

About the author 

Elle Gellrich

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