Controversial digital law is open to change: NCC

Concerns that speech rights could be hampered would be addressed, the NCC said, although a public hearing has been delayed to further refine the project.

  • By Shelley Shan / Staff Reporter

The National Communications Commission (NCC) is not proposing a controversial bill on digital intermediary services to the Legislative Yuan, the commission said yesterday, adding that the suggested changes to the bill were welcome.

“The bill has not yet been finalized by NCC commissioners and has not been handed over to the Executive Yuan or the Legislative Yuan for further consideration. Therefore, there is no need to remove it,” the commission said in a statement.

“Internet issues are complicated and often come under scrutiny. The NCC is open to any suggestions from the public,” he added.

Photo: Yang Mien-chieh, Taipei Times

The commission released the statement following calls from politicians and media pundits to drop the plan, which they said could hamper freedom of expression online by expanding the government’s power to flag content.

Some Chinese-language news outlets said the NCC was aggressively pushing the bill, regardless of the issues identified by civic groups, media experts and industry specialists in three briefings that the commission has organized so far.

The NCC announced on Friday that it would postpone a public hearing on the project that was originally scheduled for Thursday, saying that “it needs time to research, analyze and discuss in depth a variety of issues that have been raised during briefings”.

“We will resume our communication with the public after making improvements to the project,” he added.

The project he presented to the public on June 29 is a proposal to generate feedback, the NCC said.

Suggested changes to the bill should be assessed with caution, he said, adding that he did not push for the first bill to pass, as some have claimed.

“We will continue to listen to the views of all stakeholders, such as the types of intermediary service providers that should be regulated and how they should be regulated,” he said, adding that the postponement of the hearing public on Thursday was necessary.

“As an independent agency, we understand that no policy will be complete and comprehensive without coordination and communication with the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan and civil society,” he said.

The bill was proposed to outline ways to deal with problems that have arisen from rapid development of internet services, he said.

Cybercrimes – including non-consensual photo sharing, internet fraud and misinformation – have harmed Taiwanese, especially women and children, he said.

“We drafted the Digital Intermediary Services Act based on the EU Digital Services Act. We hope that the rights of Internet users can be protected by creating an accountability mechanism that includes service providers, the public and the government,” the commission said.

“Free speech is a constitutionally protected right in Taiwan, and its most valuable asset, and we must carefully draw a fine line between protecting free speech and combating cybercrime. Rational discussion among stakeholders is conducive to workable policy,” he said.

The commission also said on Friday that it would take into account the needs of intermediary service providers who are socially responsible but find it difficult to fulfill the obligations stipulated by the commission due to relatively low operating budgets.

Obligations for nonprofit or smaller service providers could be waived or relaxed, the commission said.

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