02 July 2019 – ARTICLE 19 has responded to the UK government’s White Paper on Online Harms, which sets out proposals to regulate tech companies for the purposes of preventing online ‘harms’.
Our response sets out general concerns on the overall approach of the White Paper to regulation, as well as responding to questions set by the Government in the areas in which we have expertise.
Overall, ARTICLE 19 is concerned that instead of holistically considering what framework might be appropriate to regulate digital platforms, the proposal in the White Paper is unduly focusing on online content regulation. This is at the expense of solutions to excessive market concentration and abuse of dominance of these companies that could be found in competition, consumer protection and data protection law, among others. Although the UK Government’s efforts at regulating digital platforms may be filled with good intentions, ARTICLE 19 has significant concerns with the way in which the White Paper is framed and its scope. While some effort seems to have gone into giving this regulatory endeavour some conceptual underpinning with a new ‘duty of care,’ we believe that it is sorely lacking in clarity and could pose a significant threat to freedom of expression. It is also highly unclear that the proposed solutions would ultimately be effective.
In its submission to the consultation, ARTICLE 19 raises concerns on the following issues:
- Restrictions on legal speech
- Scope of platforms covered
- Impact on press regulation
- Concept of ‘duty of care’
- Disproportionate sanctions