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March 13, 2019

Lords push for new regulator to oversee control of internet and digital platforms

By James Walker

The House of Lords has called for a new regulator to oversee control of the internet and digital platforms in the place of “unacceptably opaque and slow” self-regulation.

Peers on the House of Lords communications select committee also want platforms to be subject to a legal duty of care overseen by Ofcom.

The Regulating in a Digital World report has pushed for the creation of a “Digital Authority” that would oversee regulation of the internet, coordinating the “dozen regulators” which have a remit over the sector.

The report, published on Saturday, said: “A new framework for regulatory action is needed. We recommend that a new body, which we call the Digital Authority, be established to instruct and coordinate regulators.

“The Digital Authority would have the remit to continually assess regulation in the digital world and make recommendations on where additional powers are necessary to fill gaps.

“The Digital Authority would also bring together non-statutory organisations with duties in this area.”

The report added that self-regulation by platforms was “failing” and described their moderation processes as “unacceptably opaque and slow”.

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It continued: “We recommend that online services which host user-generated content should be subject to a statutory duty of care and that Ofcom should have responsibility for enforcing this duty of care, particularly in respect of children and the vulnerable in society.”

Peers also set out 10 recommended principles to “guide the development of online regulation”.

These principles include democratic accountability, privacy protections and the safeguarding of free expression online.

But the report has not been wholly welcomed. Index on Censorship chief executive Jodie Ginsberg tweeted: “We are sleep-walking towards a system in which perfectly legal online speech is regulated.

“Anyone who thinks this is going to target only deliberate nastiness and won’t impact political criticism, religious expression or advocacy for minority groups is living in cloud cuckoo land.”

The Government will respond to the House of Lords report within the next couple of months, the BBC has reported.

Picture: Pixabay

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