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Major Internet Companies Set Out Principles For Regulation

DYBALL: “Internet companies are taking clear, positive steps to engage with government to help reduce online harms, including these policy principles”.

Internet Association – the trade association that represents leading global internet companies on public policy – has today written to senior Ministers including Jeremy Wright and Sajid Javid detailing the six policy principles they want to see considered as part of the government’s emerging plan to make the internet safer.

Internet companies have laid out policy principles that will help government create a new system of regulation that makes the UK one of the safest places in the world to be online – while ensuring internet companies can still foster significant advancements to the economy and society. IA analysis estimates the contribution of the UK internet sector to UK GDP at approximately £45 billion per year.

Internet Association Executive Director UK, Daniel Dyball, said: “Internet companies are taking clear, positive steps to engage with government to help reduce online harms, including these policy principles. Our members undertake significant action in this area already, and we recognise there’s more to do. Creating a system of regulation for the internet is a complex task, and taking a one-size-fits-all approach could jeopardise the social and economic benefits the internet sector has produced. We are committed to working with government to get this right.”

This is the first time the internet sector has joined together and spoken publicly about what the government can do to protect UK internet users from online harms through the introduction of regulations. The government is expected to publish the Online Harms White Paper in March.
These policy principles will help tackle online harms through regulation while making sure that the internet economy can continue to thrive in the UK, offering services that enrich lives, providing real economic benefits, and delivering innovation with a purpose.

The six principles the internet companies are proposing would ensure that regulation:

  1. Is targeted at specific harms, using a risk based approach;
  2. Provides flexibility to adapt to changing technologies, different services and evolving societal expectations;
  3. Maintains the intermediary liability protections that enable the internet to deliver significant benefits for consumers, society and the economy
  4. Is technically possible to implement in practice
  5. Provides clarity and certainty for consumers, citizens and internet companies
  6. Recognises the distinction between public and private communications

In the letter sent to government, internet companies have highlighted the need for regulation to recognise the distinction between clearly illegal content and content which is harmful but not illegal, and to enable different approaches to tackling these categories of content. Similarly, principles emphasise the need to maintain intermediary liability protections. These protections have enabled almost all platforms to incorporate material generated, or provided, by individuals or businesses. From product reviews to political opinions; recipe ideas to musical compositions; social media posts to charity appeals, these protections foster the sharing of ideas, creativity, experiences and insight which are absent from other forms of communication and enrich society, public discourse and the UK’s economy.

The internet sector is a powerhouse for the UK economy and grew by over 21% between 2012 and 2016 – that’s approximately 4.2% on average per year, more than double the UK national GDP growth rate of 2% over the same period. It directly accounts for over 380,000 jobs across the UK and its contribution to GDP is more than double that of the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector.

To read IA’s principles, click here.