Bullying, abuse, a lack of accountability and the increasing use of the internet have all fed into a widely perceived need to regulate the internet in some way to ensure the safety of its users. To this end, in October 2017 the government published its policy intentions on internet safety in its Internet Safety Strategy green paper. In the paper, the government outlined plans for a voluntary social media code of practice to improve online safety policies, introduce minimum standards, and ensure regular review and monitoring.
Following the green paper, a public consultation was launched in October 2017. The government’s response was published in May 2018, with the first draft code of conduct included.
With the code being a voluntary initiative, there is the potential that it may not “ensure” digital companies’ good conduct (as the manifesto promises). Some have suggested the code needs to be legally binding or backed by a regulator, or both, if it is to be effective. And the policy pledge is to establish a regulatory framework “in law”, so new legislation, or at least amendments to existing law, will be required.
Alongside publication of its response to the green paper, the government announced a planned white paper (promised for 2018, although it did not appear by the end of that year) which will set out legislation to be brought forward to improve online safety. That’s further evidence that this policy is ‘in progress’. Once a new regulatory framework is enshrined in law, we can move it to ‘done’.
Establish a framework of facts, get the details!
- Internet Safety Strategy – Green paper – Gov.uk
- Social Media Code of Practice, Internet Safety Strategy – Green Paper – Gov.uk
- PM speech on standards in public life: 6 February 2018 – Gov.uk
- Digital Economy Act 2017 – Legislation.gov.uk
- NSPCC calls for mandatory social media code of practice – The Guardian
- Government response to the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper – Gov.uk
- Social Media Code of Practice, Government response to the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper – Gov.uk
- New laws to make social media safer – Gov.uk