Ofcom should be given new powers to regulate major tech companies like Google and Facebook, members of the House of Lords have argued, as major tech platforms have failed to tackle harms and abuse in digital media.
In its report, Regulating in a Digital World, the Lords’ communications committee condemned online platforms that host user-generated content for having “unacceptably opaque and slow” moderation processes.
Instead, they have called big tech to be reined in by a single regulator with complete oversight of the industry, while UGC-hosting platforms should be held to statutory duty of care that is enforced by Ofcom.
The digital world does not merely require more regulation, the report explains, but also “a different approach to regulation”, while policy-making and legislation is too slow at keeping up with the pace of change in the digital media industry.
The chairman of the committee, Lord Gilbert, said:
“Self-regulation by online platforms is clearly failing and the current regulatory framework is out of date. The evidence we heard made a compelling and urgent case for a new approach to regulation.
“Without intervention, the largest tech companies are likely to gain ever more control of technologies which extract personal data and make decisions affecting people’s lives.”
The committee is now recommending a new Digital Authority, guided by 10 principles. This authority would have the remit to “continually assess regulation in the digital world and make recommendations on where additional powers are necessary to fill gaps.”
It would instruct and coordinate regulators, as well as bring together non-statutory organisations with duties in this area.
Facebook and Google would not comment and instead referred Campaign to the Internet Association, which said the report was “important” and would be looked at closely.