In April 2019, the U.K. Government published its Online Harms white paper. This proposed the creation of a new independent regulatory body, whose task would be to enforce a new statutory duty of care on relevant companies to take reasonable steps to keep their users safe and tackle illegal and harmful activity on their services. Other countries have also proposed new regulatory approaches to online terrorist content, as has the European Commission.
In this short piece – which is based on our previous work on this topic – our starting point is not whether a new independent regulator should be established, but what form a new regulatory regime might take. The reason for this is that we believe it is necessary to answer the ‘what form’ question in order to be able to discuss the ‘whether’ question meaningfully. In our opinion, to be effective a new regulatory regime must possess three key features.
First, there is no one-size-fits-all regulatory intervention and so a diverse regulatory toolkit is essential. This toolkit should include advice and guidance, removal orders, fines, disruption of business activities and ISP blocking.