A Democratic Digital Charter

The Internet is a part of the fabric of society — a source of great public good and new public harms, one that poses entirely new regulatory and social challenges.

The government has today launched the Digital Charter, a “rolling programme” that will use a multitude of tools to ensure the Internet works “for everyone — for citizens, businesses and society as a whole”.

At Doteveryone, we’re delighted to see the government committing to regulation that is not only good for business, but good for everyone. We’re pleased to see that the need to foster the public’s digital understanding has been recognised in the Charter and that citizens’ views are being solicited. Because the Internet belongs to all of us, not just to industry or government, it’s vital that an effective, democratic Charter be informed by real engagement with the public and civil society, and supported by public education.

At Doteveryone, we’re delighted to see the government committing to regulation that is not only good for business, but good for everyone.

The Charter is rightly described as a “living document” — and responding to rapidly changing technologies requires flexibility. But it’s important this doesn’t mean the work gets waylaid into reactive responses to specific scandals and works to address the systemic changes technology has brought to society.

The initial priorities of the Charter are to make the digital economy thrive, protect people from harmful content, address platforms’ legal liability for content, ensure the ethical use of data and artificial intelligence, support data control, sharing and portability, tackle disinformation and protect organisations from cyberattacks.

These are all worthwhile challenges to address, but an effective, world-leading charter would also:

  • widen the definition of Internet safety to include the less visible social harms, including democracy hacking and technology addiction
  • ensure responsible and ethical standards are applied more widely than in the fields of data and AI, and are extended to areas including design patterns, transparency, and understandability.
  • set the stage for an investment in public education so that adults of all ages have an opportunity to be fully rounded digital citizens and understand the implications of the technologies they use

Good technology regulation is not just about standards, protections and security; it also sets incentives for technology to make a positive impact on society.

New research to be published by Doteveryone next month shows significant public appetite for transparency and accountability in everyday technology.

We look forward to the Charter leading in these areas, and creating new benchmarks for industry so Britain becomes a place where we can all trust technology to be good for society, as well as good for business.