Ben Evans on the DCMS White Paper on Online Harms

From Ben’s weekly newsletter:

The Uk government has released a ‘White Paper’ (consultation prior to legislation) covering the management and take-down of harmful content on social platforms. The idea is to have a list of specific and clearly defined kind of harmful content (child exploitation, promoting terrorism, etc), an obligation on anyone hosting content to have a reasonable and systematic process for finding and removing this, and a penalty regime that is proportionate to the kind of harm (child exploitation is worst), how hard they’d tried to deal with it (the ‘reasonableness’ test), and how big the company is (startups get more leeway on less harmful stuff), with a regulatory body to manage and adjudicate this. The UK attitude is “this is how everything else is regulated, so why should online be any different?” The broader point: FB and Google etc are not in China, but more and more economies where they are present and have to remain will start passing laws, and some of them will mean their global operations might have to change – there will be a lowest common denominator effect. This one tries not to be too prescriptive and tries not to harm startups, but GDPR was the opposite. And, of course, absolutely no-one in the UK (or anywhere else) cares what American lawyers think the American constitution says.