The House of Lords Communications Committee called for a new, overarching regulatory framework so that the services in the digital world are held accountable to an enforceable set of shared principles.
In its report, Regulating in a Digital World, the committee noted that over a dozen UK regulators have a remit covering the digital world but there is nobody which has complete oversight. As a result, regulation of the digital environment is fragmented, with gaps and overlaps. Bigtech companies have failed to adequately tackle online harms.
Responses to growing public concern have been piecemeal and inadequate. The Committee recommends a new Digital Authority, guided by 10 principles to inform regulation of the digital world.
Lord Gilbert of Panteg, the committee’s chair, said in a statement: “Self-regulation by online platforms is clearly failing and the current regulatory framework is out of date. The evidence we heard made a compelling and urgent case for a new approach to regulation. Without intervention, the largest tech companies are likely to gain ever more control of technologies which extract personal data and make decisions affecting people’s lives. Our proposals will ensure that rights are protected online as they are offline while keeping the internet open to innovation and creativity, with a new culture of ethical behaviour embedded in the design of service.”
A new ‘Digital Authority’ should be established to co-ordinate regulators, continually assess regulation and make recommendations on which additional powers are necessary to fill gaps. The Digital Authority should play a key role in providing the public, the Government and Parliament with the latest information. It should report to a new joint committee of both Houses of Parliament, whose remit would be to consider all matters related to the digital world.
10 principles for regulation
The 10 principles identified in the committee’s report should guide all regulation of the internet. They include accountability, transparency, respect for privacy and freedom of expression. The principles will help the industry, regulators, the Government and users work towards a common goal of making the internet a better, more respectful environment which is beneficial to all. If rights are infringed, those responsible should be held accountable in a fair and transparent way.