DCMS publishes White Paper on Internet Safety and Online Harm

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) today published its long-awaited White Paper on Online Harms.

The White Paper focuses heavily on the duties of social media platforms to police user-generated content. It proposes imposing a duty of care on platforms to protect users, particularly children and young people, from harm, with compliance overseen by a regulator.

DCMS extends the scope of the duty of care to include "tools or services which allow, enable or facilitate users to share or discover UGC or interact with each other online". This is a broad-reaching definition and includes search tools, app stores and  messaging services.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, said:

“The government’s proposals would create state regulation of the speech of millions of British citizens.

“We have to expect that the duty of care will end up widely drawn with serious implications for legal content, that is deemed potentially risky, whether it really is nor not.

“The government refused to create a state regulator the press because it didn’t want to be seen to be controlling free expression. We are skeptical that state regulation is the right approach.”

“The government is using Internet regulation as a blunt tool to try and fix complex societal problems. Its proposals lack an assessment of the risk to free expression and omit any explanation as to how it would be protected.”

The White Paper forms part of DCMS’s Digital Charter policy. A twelve-week consultation period will now commence.

ENDS

Notes

See ORG’s fuller view of the Duty of Care at https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2019/duty-of-care:-an-empty-concept

The DCMS White Paper is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/online-harms-white-paper. This follows its Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper published in October 2017.