The UK’s leading business organisation has developed a five-point plan for creating world-leading internet regulation which includes:
- Backing a new independent regulator as part of OFCOM
- Providing clear rules to follow - greater clarity on the definitions, legal responsibilities and scope
- Drawing up enforcement measures which are both proportionate and feasible
- Joining up Government initiatives on tech policy and regulation
- Enhancing digital literacy across business and the wider UK public.
Building trust in technology we use every day is vital for both society and the economy. The UK digital sector has become an economic powerhouse for the country, creating jobs almost three times faster than the rest of economy. But 76% of adult internet users express concern about going online and CBI research highlights the importance of trust and privacy for customers determining where to spend their money.
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General said:
“The UK has a unique opportunity to set out a world-leading approach to internet regulation.
“We can be the international yardstick for how best to protect people from harm online, while also supporting the UK’s flourishing digital economy.
“While the UK leads its digital competitors, it cannot rest on its laurels. Major regulatory interventions must be internationally workable and sought after by the rest of the world.
“After speaking to businesses across the country, from start-ups to multinationals, it’s clear these proposals fall short and can be improved.
“For example, the Duty of Care should focus on illegal harmful content and re-examine proposals for legal but harmful issues.
“Ofcom can be the home for new regulator, but for it to be successful it must be independent, properly resourced and equipped with the right expertise.
“Both Government and industry should have the responsibility for funding the new regulator; the Government cannot out-source its responsibility to build public trust and keep its citizens safe.
“Firms want to see the UK leading the way in internet safety. At such an important time the stakes could not be higher – do it well and the UK can lead the world in internet regulation.
“But done badly, poor regulation will undermine new entrants into the digital economy and dampen UK investment, while having minimal impact on improving public trust.”
Full details of the CBI recommendations:
- 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 - especially for legal but harmful content
- Publish an impact assessment of the regulatory proposals within the white paper
- Embed a world-class regulator within Ofcom, an independent and well-respected regulator
- 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 – that includes 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 (figure 1)
- 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.