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Tech regulation picks up speed - while the companies play catch up

Today’s news that the UK government is proposing an independent regulator for internet companies shows that government regulation is catching the tech giants up fast.

It was always going to do so, but coming after last week’s new legislation in Australia that gives the government powers to jail internet company executives if they don’t take enough action to stop violent material on their platforms, this is now happening faster than perhaps many anticipated.

This regulatory catch up has always been inevitable - a question of when and not if, how much rather than whether. What is significant and notable in today’s news from the UK has been the (so far) measured responses from the companies themselves. They know that the game has changed.

Where previously dire warnings about the future the internet or freedom as we know it were the norm, this current wave of regulation is seeing more of the “unintended consequences” positioning trailed extensively last year by YouTube in response to the new EU Copyright Directive.

This is definitely a better strategy for them as they need to be part of the debate if they are to have any influence in it. Around the world governments and large numbers of their voters aren’t content to allow the big companies to effectively self-regulate any more. These new regulations are only the beginning.

But saying you have grave concerns is no longer enough. You have to demonstrate serious and credible actions or governments are just going to get on with taking actions themselves.

After all, despite all the concerns about the potential downsides of the EU Copyright Directive, European lawmakers went ahead and passed it anyway.

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