Web shake-up could force ALL websites to treat us like children: Users could be made to prove their age for almost every page they visit under controversial new plansNew laws from the Information Commissioner have been labelled as draconian Web firms will now have to introduce strict new age checks on their websitesIf websites don’t introduce checks, they will have to treat all users as childrenAdam Smith Institute’s Matthew Lesh said the laws were ‘infantilising’ web usersBy Katherine Rushton For The Daily Mail Published: 18:10 EDT, 14 April 2019 | Updated: 19:18 EDT, 14 April 2019 The information watchdog has been accused of ‘infantilising’ web users, in a draconian new code designed to make the internet safer for children.Web firms will be forced to introduce strict new age checks on their websites – or treat all their users as if they are children, under proposals published by the Information Commissioner’s Office today.The rules are so stringent that critics fear people could end up being forced to demonstrate their age for virtually every website they visit, or have the services that they can access limited as if they are under 18. The information watchdog’s new code has been accused of ‘infantilising’ web users by some expertsThey may have to log in every time they visit an online shop, browse holidays online or look at commercial news websites, critics argue.Critics also warned that the rules would severely damage the online advertising business, threatening the provision of free web services such as online news websites and chat forums including Mumsnet and TripAdvisor.Companies that do not stick to the code face fines of up to 4 per cent of their global turnover – £1.67billion in the case of Facebook.The radical proposals are designed to protect children using the internet, according to the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham is behind the new laws, which will enforce strict new age checks or treat all users as children Lifelong civil servant behind code Elizabeth Denham risks stepping into controversy with her new code on internet regulation.The Information Commissioner has already made clear she is determined to take on the likes of Facebook.Last autumn she said Mark Zuckerberg’s website had passed a ‘tipping point’ of unlawful behaviour and spoke of her ‘appetite’ for confrontation.However her attempt to regulate web barons is showing signs of potentially backfiring.With the plans of Home Secretary Sajid Javid to set up an internet regulator under attack over censorship, her children’s code is now in danger of being seen as a bureaucratic threat to people and businesses who rely on the web. Canadian Miss Denham, 59, is a lifelong civil servant with no experience in private commerce or business.Appointed Information Commissioner in Britain in 2016, the history graduate has successfully lobbied for the maximum fine her office can impose to be raised from £500,000 to several million – a policy going ahead next year.She made her mark by fining TalkTalk £400,000 for security failings and hit Facebook with a £500,000 bill for its role in the Cambridge Analytica saga.She also moved against the Leave.EU campaign and its backers and in March fined Vote Leave £40,000 for sending unsolicited text messages.The mother of four is married to a retired computer scientist. Baroness Kidron – a campaigner for child safety online who was instrumental in ensuring the code is backed by law – said: ‘For too long we have failed to recognise children’s rights and needs online, with tragic outcomes.‘I firmly believe in the power of technology to transform lives, be a force for good and rise to the challenge of promoting the rights and safety of our children. But … it must consider the best interests of children, not simply its own commercial interests.’But experts fear the measures could badly backfire. Baroness Beeban Kidron has successfully campaigned for extra restrictions in the data protection bill that pased into law last year Elizabeth Denham was helped by scion of ‘leftie royalty’ Baroness Kidron of Angel was born into what has been described as ‘old Leftie royalty’.Her aunt and uncle, Chanie Rosenberg and Tony Cliff, founded the International Socialists with her father, Michael Kidron, the Marxist economist.Beeban Kidron left school at 16 to work for the photographer Eve Arnold, before enrolling at the National Film School. From there, she charted a career as a director, working on hits such as Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.The 57-year-old crossbench peer, who has two grown-up children, directed InRealLife, a documentary about gaming addiction among teenagers.She successfully campaigned for extra restrictions in the data protection bill that passed into law last year. These changes ensured the code published today is backed by law.They said the proposals could make web users’ data more vulnerable, because their browsing history could potentially be linked to their identity and misused by unscrupulous operators. The Online Harms white paper The extent of the new regulator’s powers has not been confirmed, but included in the paper’s proposals include: Web firms writing annual reports on the amount of harmful content on their sites Fines for senior managers at firms that seriously break the rulesFines of up to £20million, or 4 per cent of annual turnover, for firms that break the rulesThe regulator could have offending websites blocked, so they cannot be accessed in the UKRegulatory power to fight fake news It would mean internet users could have to give personal information, such as credit card or passport details, to every website they visit, unless it is guaranteed child-friendly, which could be a security risk.Matthew Lesh, of free market think-tank the Adam Smith Institute, said: ‘[The ICO] is an unelected quango introducing draconian limitations on the internet with the threat of massive fines. It is ridiculous to infantilise people and treat everyone as children… It is really up to parents to keep their children safe online.’The code, which applies to virtually every website that makes money online, is under consultation. The finalised version will come into force as early as the autumn.The code is the second assault on web firms to be accused of going too far. Last week a row erupted over the Government’s Online Harms White Paper, amid fears that it paved the way for totalitarian-style censorship.The document laid out plans for a new internet watchdog which would have the power to block websites from the internet in Britain if they did not adhere to its rules.
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