7 March 2019

  |  CBI Press Team

Update

UK must lead the way in internet safety

The Government’s upcoming Internet Safety Strategy White Paper could be a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to develop policies that both protects people from harm and helps support the UK’s flourishing digital economy. 

UK must lead the way in internet safety

Speaking at the Media and Telecoms 2019 & Beyond conference in London, CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn said that in a fast-changing environment, any policies “must be targeted, evidenced, proportionate and effective”. The test should be whether they deliver something the rest of the world wants to replicate.

Carolyn said if we are to continue to build a media and telecoms sector that is the envy of the world, the UK must address three issues: trust, trade and talent.

On trust, Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:

“Open a newspaper any time in the last month and you’ll have seen the headlines. Amid the excitement and the promise of all that technology can bring, there’s also a groundswell of mistrust.

“Fears about the ease with which harm can be spread via social media, snooping, and worries about work in an increasingly automated world.  And that harm can be tragically real, especially for our young people. 

“Part of the answer will be separating fact from fiction, which might be the work of a generation or more.  Yet it has already begun.  Look at the Internet Matters campaign which has invested millions to help make the internet safer. Or the Internet Watch Foundation which works with over 130 companies to remove harmful online content.  These initiatives can and are making a difference. 

“But if we ask whether industry action alone will be enough to restore trust, I think the answer is no.  We can anticipate a future of greater oversight and regulation.  

“We can ignore that fact, we can resist.  Or we can do something a little bolder - anticipate it, work with it and shape it. The Government’s Internet Safety Strategy could be a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Get it right and the UK can show the balance between freedom and oversight, checks and flexibility.

“It must be a consultation in the truest sense. Not pre-judged and everything must be on the table – from both sides.

“Any regulation must be targeted, evidenced, proportionate and effective in a fast-changing environment.  The test for me will be whether it delivers something the rest of the world wants to replicate. The Government’s White Paper can be the opportunity to define the debate.”

On trade, Carolyn said:

“Brexit is the top trade issue for the sector but by no means the only one. No-deal must come off the table. Politicians need to come together to agree the current deal in the next 10 days.  If they can’t, quickly agree something else. Failure would be unforgivable and the consequences devastating.

“But winning the argument on no-deal won’t be enough.  Then there’s the future trade relationship with the EU.  The fact is that so far, the debate has been dominated by our trade in goods. I understand why. Services are complicated, and border issues, particularly in Northern Ireland, are urgent and pressing.

“Yet our trade in services is almost as big as our trade in goods.  The CBI will make sure that the voice of services is heard loud and clear when we get to the real trade deal with the EU.”

On talent, Carolyn said:

“For at least a generation, the UK has been a magnet for the world’s creative and tech talent. People come because we are a country that fuels ideas and creative spirits. But we shouldn’t take this for granted.

“Right now, the Government is part-way through a year-long consultation on our future immigration policy. It’s an opportunity, but it’s also a responsibility, and frankly, it contains the potential for some serious damage.

“The proposal that anyone coming here must be earning £30,000 or more is completely unsuited to this sector.  In which much of the best talent is young, working in our start-ups, gaining experience, achieving incredible things, investing in their careers and moving on.

“2019 needs to be a year of evidence. We all need to make the case to the Government of why getting this right is so important.”

On women in the sector, Carolyn said:

“It’s fantastic to look around the room and see so many women here today – both attending and speaking. It can only be good for ideas, for creativity, for dynamism.  

“For every woman leading a company, you inspire scores of other young women to believe they can follow in your footsteps, and to set out on that journey. 

“But there is still much more to do. In the leadership of media and creative industries, men still outnumber women two-to-one. Nine in ten media companies pay men on average more than they pay women.  There’s no quick fix. 

“Let’s not wait around for others to do it for us, there’s a huge amount we can do ourselves. Many CBI members already are and on Monday, the CBI will hold the first meeting of its Women in Technology Group - open to all sectors.

“It’s a group I hope will amplify women’s voices in the development of Government policy and build a network of next generation women across UK industry.”