UK Government publishes Online Harms White Paper


In response to growing concerns about harmful content online and the use of digital platforms for the spread of terrorism and other illegal or harmful content, the Government, in April 2019, published a White Paper setting out ambitious plans for a new system of accountability and oversight for tech companies, moving far beyond self-regulation.

The proposed framework for online safety is intended to keep UK users, particularly children, safer online with the most robust action to counter illegal content and activity.

The White Paper is intended to apply to a wide range of companies that allow users to share or discover user-generated content or to interact with each other online.

All companies in the scope of the regulatory framework will have to show that they fulfil their duty of care and will have to operate within a culture of transparency, trust and accountability and will also be subject to the full force of the regulatory framework for which a new regulator will be appointed.

Commenting on the White Paper, Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham said:

“I think the white paper proposals reflect people’s growing mistrust of social media and online services. People want to use these services, they appreciate the value of them, but they’re increasingly questioning how much control they have of what they see, and how their information is used. That relationship needs repairing, and regulation can help that. If we get this right, we can protect people online while embracing the opportunities of digital innovation.”

“While this important debate unfolds, we will continue to take action. We have powers, provided under data protection law, to act decisively where people’s information is being misused online, and we have specific powers to ensure firms are accountable to the people whose data they use”.

The White Paper is open for consultation until the 1 July 2019.

Robert Bond

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