Labour proposes new duty of care for social media firms to protect children online
Labour will create a new duty of care for social media firms, demanding digital giants take action to protect children from online harms.
The announcement comes as Labour submits its evidence to the Information Commissioner for a new statutory code that will require tech firms to keep children safe. Labour pushed for, and supported, the creation of a new Age Appropriate Design Code for social media platforms in the Data Protection Act earlier this year.
In addition, Labour is calling for:
A single Internet regulator to marshal the power of the nine different regulators with responsibility for the online world in the UK. Today Ofcom, the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Competition and Markets Authority, the Payment Systems Regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Electoral Commission, the Advertising Standards Agency, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, as well as a host of non-regulatory bodies have some kind of responsibility for online regulation. This fragmentation means the whole is less than the sum of the parts. So Labour is backing proposals for Doteveryone to bring regulators together. From Ofcom, with its general but limited online mandate, to bodies with specific narrow responsibilities like The Payments Systems Regulator, the regulatory environment as it stands is a mess that needs tidying up. It is clear we need a single internet watchdog with the power and expertise to monitor and enforce a regulatory framework for the digital world.
Bigger fines for firms for firms failing to take steps to keep children safe online. The law currently allows for companies in breach of the Code to be fined up to £18 million, but with internet giants like Google holding more than £90 billion in cash reserves, Labour is calling for harsher measures against companies that fail to protect, or use predatory techniques, against their youngest and most vulnerable users.
Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Digital Minister said:
“The internet offers so much space for anonymity, so much scope to set foot in spaces out of bounds in the offline world, that it becomes easy to forget: children are still children, online or off. And this isn’t a marginal issue. Children are one third of online users. That’s why it’s time for social media giants – some of the largest firms on earth – to step up to their responsibilities.”
Labour’s proposed regime draws on a tried and tested approach, dating back to Health and Safety regulation of the 1970’s and recently updated by the Carnegie Trust for the social media age. The statutory duty of care is proven to be futureproof, allowing companies to innovate but not in a harmful way, largely avoiding the need for endless detailed laws that are in danger of being of date before they are passed.
The Carnegie Trust’s proposals for a new duty of care can be found here.
Doteveryone’s proposal for a single internet regulator can be found here.
The Labour Party’s submission to the Information Commissioner’s Office can be read on the People’s Plan.