CBI members have spoken, and we have responded by turning up the pressure on government to amend the recent Online Harms white paper, so that it works for business.
The government has published major proposals to change how the internet is regulated and tackle online harms.
Business supports clear regulation which can play a crucial role in building trust in the digital economy. But current proposals risk falling short of the government’s ambition to be the best and safest place to build a digital business.
The proposals will affect a wide range of businesses with a new Statutory Duty of Care, giving businesses more responsibility over user safety. Currently, the scope of the white paper means businesses with user generated content, anyone from cloud services providers to online review sites, could be affected.
“The UK has a unique opportunity to set out a world-leading approach to internet regulation. But if done badly, poor regulation will undermine new entrants into the digital economy and dampen UK investment, while having minimal impact on improving public trust,” says CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn.
After collating the views of our members, the CBI has responded to the white paper to improve the effectiveness of the regulatory proposals.
The five key recommendations are:
- Deliver proposals based on the principles of good regulation, prioritising proportionality, feasibility, and effectiveness
- Improve the clarity of scope, definitions, legal responsibilities as well as the government’s intended success measures, to give businesses clear rules to follow
- Focus the Duty of Care on illegal harms and rethink regulatory proposals for legal but harmful content
- Outline how companies can fulfil their duty of care obligations without general monitoring
- Publish an impact assessment of the regulatory proposals within the white paper.
- Embed a world-class regulator within Ofcom, an independent and well-respected example
- Maintain the approach of the regulator, based on systemic failure and highest risk
- Equip the regulator with significant resources, technical expertise and independence to be successful
- Jointly fund the regulator through a proportionate business and government partnership, with business funding proportionate to company size and relevance to the regulator’s work.
- Back up regulation with proportionate and feasible enforcement measures
- Create an action plan for how the UK will coordinate internationally on online harms and showcase its leadership
- Develop annual transparency reporting based on flexible reporting criteria
- Clarify ISP blocking proposals – making it mandatory and last resort
- Reserve any executive liability for the most serious instances, focused on illegal harms and specific individual executive actions.
- Join up current government initiatives on tech policy and regulation
- Government departments must create a coherent package of tech policy and regulation to avoid a fragmented approach for business – including wider economic harms
- Give the regulator a mandate to monitor the coherence of UK technology policy and make recommendations to government to improve it
- HM Treasury and DCMS should formally respond to the business-led review into the competitiveness of the UK tech sector.
- Enhance education and digital literacy proposals as a core third pillar to regulation that empowers users
- Government and the regulator must coordinate all existing media literacy and digital skills activities to make these great than the sum of their parts – and focus on adult education
- Take meaningful action on innovation, particularly safety technologies, as an opportunity to address online harms.