UK Government Looking to Regulator to Police Social Media

Ofcom to become UK Internet regulator

UK Government Looking to Regulator to Police Social Media

Following the United Kingdom government's publication of its response to the Online Harms White Paper and suggestion that it is minded to appoint communications watchdog Ofcom as the regulator to enforce rules to make the Internet a safer place, a number of industry bodies and observers have shared their thoughts on the proposals.

"As the internet continues to grow and transform our lives it is essential that we get the balance right between a thriving, open and vibrant virtual world, and one in which users are protected from harm", Digital Minister Nicky Morgan and Interior Minister Priti Patel mentioned a joint statement.

"However, in order to effectively address online harms, it is important for interventions to be targeted at the specific part of the Internet ecosystem, so we welcome the proposed approach of focusing measures on platforms that facilitate user generated content". While there is a reference to "UK businesses" in the Response, it does not clarify that only businesses registered in the United Kingdom will be caught within the regulator's scope for the purposes of Online Harms regulations, or whether businesses elsewhere that offer services to individuals in the United Kingdom will also be caught (and if the latter then this raises complex jurisdictional issues which become all the more complex in a post-Brexit world where several tech companies have their European headquarters in the Republic of Ireland).

"The new regulatory framework will instead require companies, where relevant, to explicitly state what content and behavior is acceptable on their sites and then for platforms to enforce this consistently".

Ofcom was established in 2002 and began to formally oversee television and radio the following year.

Indeed, the IA also warned that the measures could have serious consequences for online freedom of expression.

Following a consultation, the United Kingdom government said on Wednesday it planned to legislate to ensure companies had systems in place to tackle harmful content such as child abuse, cyber bullying and terrorist propaganda.

The issue gained added urgency when a British schoolgirl killed herself in 2017 after following a series of accounts about suicide and depression on Instagram and Pinterest. They said users should also be given the chance to appeal when their content is removed, and platforms must be more transparent over removal decisions.

Social media giants such as Facebook want governments to adopt a common rulebook and oversight bodies that could take the pressure off their own executive teams.

These include "the scope of regulation, treatment of legal but potentially harmful content, and enforcement powers", its United Kingdom chief Daniel Dyball said.

'With Ofcom at the helm of a proportionate and strong regulatory regime, we have an incredible opportunity to lead the world in building a thriving digital economy, driven by groundbreaking technology, that is trusted by and protects everyone in the United Kingdom, ' said Ms Morgan.

Britain's role in drafting a universal solution was boosted by Mark Zuckerberg's appointment in 2018 of former United Kingdom deputy prime minister Nick Clegg as Facebook's head of global affairs and communications.

Germany introduced tough regulations on social media in 2018, which can see platforms fined if they do not review and remove illegal content within 24 hours of it being posted.

"Senior manager liability emerged as an area of concern", Wednesday's report said.

The policy, which will be developed in the coming months, would not place an undue burden on business, the government said.

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