Sounds Like We're Getting an Internet Watchdog

By Holly Brockwell on at

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is planning an independent internet watchdog to keep an eye on tech and social media companies, and make sure they toe the line.

If they don't, they'll find themselves sanctioned – potentially with fines or even bans, and with big cheeses held personally responsible for big problems like data breaches.

The proposals come from the Online Harms White Paper, a collaboration between the DCMS and the Home Office.

It advocates for an independent regulator to create a code of conduct that tech companies like Facebook (and Instagram and WhatsApp), Twitter, Google, Snapchat, TikTok, cloud providers like Apple's iCloud, and similar services would be held to in the UK.

The regulator would have the power to fine companies and individual execs at those companies for things like terrorist content (we're guessing livestreaming a shooting spree would fit into that category), images of child sex abuse, hate speech, selling illegal items and services, revenge porn, harassment and stalking, and potentially even lower-level problems like trolling and fake news.

In extreme cases, the watchdog could compel internet service providers to block sites that break the rules and don't fix their shit.

There'll now be a 12-week public consultation on the proposals.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright explains the plan thusly:

"The era of self-regulation for online companies is over.

"Voluntary actions from industry to tackle online harms have not been applied consistently or gone far enough."

Mark Zuckerberg himself said much the same recently.

Jeremy Wright suggests a fine of around four per cent of company turnover, in line with the punishment for breaching GDPR. For the big guys, that's serious money.

The tech companies would also have to pay for the regulator itself, but given how long they've all spent trying to sort out these kinds of problems and getting absolutely nowhere, we suspect they'll be happy to pay to make the problem go away. Isn't that the Silicon Valley way?

Featured image: Benjamin Dada on Unsplash