The internet has brought huge opportunities, connecting the world as never before. The ‘digital world’—an environment composed of digital services facilitated by the internet—plays an ever-increasing role in all aspects of life. However, regulation of the digital world has not kept pace with its role in our lives. Although it is not a lawless ‘Wild West’, a large volume of activity occurs online which would not normally be tolerated offline. Misuse of personal data, abuse and hateful speech make the case for further regulation compelling. The Government is expected, through its Internet Safety Strategy, to propose legislation intended to help make the UK “the safest place in the world to be online”
The need for regulation goes beyond online harms. The digital world has become dominated by a small number of very large companies. These companies enjoy a substantial advantage, operating with an unprecedented knowledge of users and other businesses. Without intervention the largest tech companies are likely to gain more control of technologies which disseminate media content, extract data from the home and individuals or make decisions affecting people’s lives.
Over a dozen regulators have a remit covering the digital world. But there is no overall regulator. Regulation of the digital environment is fragmented with overlaps and gaps. Notably, there is no specific content regulator for the internet. We recommend the development of a comprehensive and holistic strategy for regulation.