It’s time to rein in Facebook, Twitter et al, Lords committee

Regulation of the digital world has not kept pace with its role in our lives, it claims

In a move that will no doubt pique the interest of the UK’s flourishing blockchain sector, the House of Lords Communications Committee has called for a new, overarching regulatory framework targeting digital world services.

In its report Regulating in a Digital World the committee notes that over a dozen UK regulators have a remit covering this area, but there is no body which has complete oversight. As a result, regulation is fragmented, with gaps and overlaps. Big tech companies have failed to adequately tackle online harms, it claims. Responses to growing public concern have been piecemeal and inadequate.

The Committee is recommending a new Digital Authority, guided by 10 principles:

Parity: there should be the same level of protection online as offline

Accountability: processes must be in place so that individuals and organisations are held to account for their actions and policies

Transparency: powerful businesses and organisations operating in the digital world must be open to scrutiny

Openness: the internet must remain open to innovation and competition

Privacy: measures should be in place to protect the privacy of individuals

Ethical design: services must act in the interests of users and society

Recognition of childhood: the most vulnerable users of the internet should be protected

Respect for human rights and equality: the freedoms of expression and information online should be protected

Education and awareness-raising: people should be able to navigate the digital world safely

Democratic accountability, proportionality etc.

“The Government should not just be responding to news headlines but looking ahead so that the services that constitute the digital world can be held accountable to an agreed set of principles. Self-regulation by online platforms is clearly failing and the current regulatory framework is out-of-date,” says Committee Chairman, Lord Gilbert of Panteg.

“The evidence we heard made a compelling and urgent case for a new approach to regulation. Without intervention, the largest tech companies are likely to gain ever more control of technologies which extract personal data and make decisions affecting people’s lives. Our proposals will ensure that rights are protected online as they are offline while keeping the internet open to innovation and creativity, with a new culture of ethical behaviour embedded in the design of service.”

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