Online Harms White Paper: Consultation Response : BILETA Response to the UK Government Consultation 'Online Harms White Paper'
Romero Moreno, Felipe
The British Irish Law Education and Technology Association (BILETA) has concerns about the broad scope of the proposals in the White Paper and how the proposals will be applied to platforms. The White Paper proposes co-regulation by a new regulator called OfWeb. Previous attempts to regulate broadcast and press (Ofcom and IPSO) might provide insights on what its scope and application might look like, but there are different principles, issues, and regulatory designs needed for platforms. If establishing a new regulator proves necessary (and we are sceptical in this regard), the key requirement is its independence. The White Paper proposes that OfWeb will be granted a delegated power to define an online harm any way it wants . This is not only ripe for abuse, it does not meet commonly accepted ‘quality of law’ and ‘reasonable foreseeability’ standards. Furthermore, it could also subject a regulator to the whims of political and industry influence. This is potentially undemocratic and does not meet rule of law standards required in a democratic society. Despite parity between the offline and online world listed as a specific objective, the scope of powers goes far beyond parity to what is permitted by UK substantive law in the offline world. It regulates users and tech companies through the imposition of a “duty of care” applicable to content that is not necessarily unlawful, but regarded as harmful.