Online regulation plans will hurt UK tech sector, warns internet giants group

Tyrone Stewart

Social media appsThe Internet Association (IA) – a lobbying group which represents internet companies including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Twitter – has warned that government plans to regulate social media and tech firms aren’t clear enough and threaten to harm the UK’s digital sector.

The UK government’s proposals were put forward last month in the ‘Online Harms White Paper’, which was compiled to tackle issues around harmful content, fake news, and cyberbullying.

Under the proposals, an independent regulator would be tasked with policing tech firms and ensuring they abide by their mandatory ‘duty of care’ to users. Failure of tech firms to follow the rules could result in them being levelled with fines, or even a ban.

However, in a report seen by City A.M., the IA calls the proposed measures “unclear” and cautions that what is currently being suggested could damage the UK’s tech sector, with smaller businesses suffering the most.

The IA particularly finds problem with the government’s use of the term ‘duty of care’, as it creates legal uncertainty and would be “unmanageable” in practice. The group also wants it to be made clearer which online services would actually be covered by the new laws, and more depth to provided on the definition of ‘online harm’.

The IA’s report coincides with research from Ofcom finding that Brits are heavily in favour of seeing online regulation to ease their concerns about the internet.