UK government calls for digital platforms to ‘step up’ online rules

Digital platforms need to “step up and play their part in establishing online rules”, according to culture minister Matt Hancock.

Matt Hancock

Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention yesterday, Hancock said that the when it comes to posting videos online, broadcasters are regulated by Ofcom, newspapers by IPSO, but user-generated content uploaded to major online platforms are “untouched by media regulation”.

“Now I am passionate in my belief in a free and open Internet. But freedom does not mean the freedom to harm others. Freedom can only exist within a framework,” said the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.

“Digital platforms need to step up and play their part in establishing online rules and working for the benefit of the public that uses them. We’ve seen some positive first steps from Google, Facebook and Twitter recently, but even tech companies recognise that more needs to be done.”

Hancock said this is not about “simply applying” publisher or broadcaster standards to online platforms. He said the government is exploring a range of ideas including how to tighten rules to tackle illegal content online.

“We will strike the right balance between addressing issues with content online and allowing the digital economy to flourish,” said Hancock.

“This is part of the thinking behind our Digital Charter. We will work with publishers, tech companies, civil society and others to establish a new framework that protects users and their rights online and offers opportunities alongside obligations for businesses and platforms.”

The government published its Digital Charter policy paper in January. One of the priorities raised by the charter includes the question of liability – looking at the legal liability that online platforms have for the content shared on their sites.