A new era of tech regulation is about to begin. However, planned legislation is leading to a tension between two diverging principles in regulating online contents and platforms: preventing online harms and promoting digital competition.
To prevent online harms, the new Online Safety Bill will regulate content that is regarded as ‘legal but harmful’. Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, will become the designated regulator, with enforcement powers. The government itself will retain important deferred powers for the Secretary of State, extending the reach of government.
In contrast, the government is also planning to promote competition by bringing in new rules to limit market powers of online platforms. There is a tension between these approaches: new obligations in anticipation of future harms are created. Will these encourage the flow of information, or prevent it? In each case, the state claims a stronger role, guided by an assertion of its sovereignty post Brexit.
In this briefing, Professor Martin Kretschmer and Professor Philip Schlesinger discuss the proposed policy changes and argue that the role of national governments, the role of powerful firms in exercising state designated policing powers, and the safeguards against executive decisions need to be examined closely.
Kretschmer, M. and Schlesinger, P. (2021) The birth of neo-regulation. Where next for the UK’s approach to platform regulation? AHRC Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre (PEC) . Access it here: https://cdn2.assets-servd.host/creative-pec/production/assets/publications/The-birth-of-neo-regulation-PEC-Policy-Brief-Nov-2021.pdf