Doteveryone’s response to the Online Harms White Paper

UK Government proposals for a new internet regulator need more work to deliver the systemic change promised

Catherine Miller
Jul 9 · 4 min read
  1. Develop a comprehensive innovation strategy that promotes the UK as a world leader in responsible technology. Regulation will not work alone. The government must offer carrots and not just sticks. Our research found that one in twenty (5%) of UK tech workers and one in six (16%) of people in AI have left a job due to concerns about the consequences of their products.This poses a significant talent and retention issue for the UK industry. We recommend a coordinated system of incentives for responsible innovation so that government offers carrots and not just sticks.
  2. Ensure the new regulator protects fundamental rights alongside harm prevention and be honest about the challenges this poses. The regulator will arbitrate on novel and highly contentious issues that sit at the heart of the public’s democratic rights; it must be open to public, civil society and industry engagement, but its independence must be unimpeachable. We recommend the regulator uses the established UN human rights framework to set out public interest objectives for online services to meet.
  3. Take a systemic approach. The regulator must focus on promoting safety and responsibility by design. All online harms to individuals or society should be within scope of a duty of care, including consumer detriment and economic harms. The codes of practice in the White Paper, as currently drafted, undermine the duty of care principle and draw the emphasis towards after-the-fact take down of content, penalties and enforcement actions. These should be a last resort, not core regulatory activities.
  4. Be forward-looking and anticipatory. Digital technologies move too fast for reactive and retrospective regulation to be effective. The regulator will need to embrace the approaches set out in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Regulating for the Fourth Industrial Revolution White Paper and emulate forward-looking regulators such as the Financial Conduct Authority. An effective risk-based approach will also depend on developing a more rigorous evidence-base around online harms.
  5. Demonstrate tangible change in the public’s experience of online services. The role of the regulator is not just to provide technocratic fixes. The regulator must prioritise practical interventions and engage with the public to understand their concerns and communicate the remedies so that people recognise a perceptible rebalancing of power between tech companies and the public.

Doteveryone

Stories from the team at Doteveryone. We're championing responsible technology for a fairer future.

Catherine Miller

Written by

Director of Policy @doteveryone. Previously @MileEndInst @bbcr4today & @bbcworldtonight.

Doteveryone

Stories from the team at Doteveryone. We're championing responsible technology for a fairer future.