Government should build a framework for internet regulation, says Ofcom

The telecoms regulator told the House of Lords that internet regulation would be more effective if the government developed legislation that an independent body could enforce.

Internet regulation - Office Phone Shop

The meeting with the House of Lords Communications Committee, Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), discussed internet regulation in the modern digital economy, as well as how the internet could better serve the public.

Kevin Bakhurst, group director, content and media policy at Ofcom said,

“Ofcom exists because of parliament and we take out duties from parliament,” he said. “Regulation only works if it has statutory backing and has a clear remit from parliament in the UK, and then has a trusted independent body that will interpret that and set a clear set of rules.”

This project will help kick start how the UK can go about regulating the internet, but it is the Government’s responsibility to create the framework, according to Ofcom.

Ofcom works with a number of regulators to encourage collaboration and communication for the sake of consumer protection.

There is a crossover between the areas controlled by regulatory bodies, and the rules governing what regulators can and can’t do to control the internet are sketchy. Some areas, such as online content and social media are not covered at all.

Ofcom identified issues with regulation between broadcasters and those who produce online content, such as streaming services or social media sites.

Although Ofcom issues broadcasting licences for about 2,000 companies, those companies are responsible for the material that is used on those platforms, but the same cannot be said for social media.

“Broadcasters are held to the highest standards,” Bakhurst added. “The protections around online content are obviously designed at the moment around terrorist content, around protecting young people.”

Media literacy plays a role in consumption of online content. Many consumers understand that the content they consume from broadcasters is “highly regulated” and that online content “has a different set of rules”.

Andrea Coscelli, CEO of the CMA, said,

“There is a lot of ongoing coordination,” he said. “What worries me more now is potential gaps in the regulation, as opposed to a lack of bodies coordinating.”

Regulation of the internet and online content is difficult because of issues surrounding freedom of speech and considerations around data protection and privacy in a social media-driven world.

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