Blayne Haggart, Associate Professor of Political Science at Brock, co-wrote a piece recently published in The Conversation alongside Natasha Tusikov, Assistant Professor of Criminology at York University, about the response to the U.K.’s recent introduction of online regulation.
Amidst a growing consensus that social media and online platforms must be subject to public regulation, the United Kingdom has stepped up to do just that. In doing so, it has made a lot of people very angry.
On April 8, the British government presented to Parliament an Online Harms white paper. Among other things, it proposes an arm’s-length regulator that would be responsible for setting and enforcing rules prohibiting speech that is illegal (think: child porn and hate crimes) or socially damaging (think: cyberbullying and intimidation). Overall, the proposed framework seems to echo ideas suggested by U.K. law professor Lorna Woods.
Response to calls for regulation
While some critiques have been a bit hyperbolic, the more measured ones have focused on the paper’s vagueness regarding definitions and how the regulator will be set up, and concerns that the regulator will be making rules addressing harmful speech that isn’t (currently) illegal.
Regulation is where ideals meet reality. It’s easy to talk about “free speech” or the need for public regulation in the abstract. No matter the issue, translating such concepts into practice is always a messy process, fraught with compromise. While the white paper only applies to the U.K., it offers the rest of us the opportunity to think realistically about what public regulation of social media should look like.
For all its flaws, the white paper is a responsible, if incomplete, attempt to address real social issues.
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