Whitehall fudges Net regulation


Whitehall fudges Net regulation

There is great debate behind the scenes about how to implement the Government's controversial RIP Act. Scaremongers are realising that the closed, "black box" approach to the interception of e-mails is unworkable; and that they will inevitably end up using industry-standard "white boxes".



And there's a lot more IT-related controversy in the pipeline. Take the Communications White Paper, which aims to merge the regulatory bodies for IT, telecommunications and broadcasting.

Technology convergence and content digitisation has muddied issues such as liabilities, royalties, copyright and consumer protection, which now need the supervision of Ofcom, an impartial regulator.

But the fundamental issue dodged by the white paper is how to deal with the Internet. With broadcasting and the Internet fast converging, the boundary between regulation and self-regulation will soon become unacceptably blurred.

Behind the scenes the Government believes that it should exert some degree of online regulation to protect the general public. Ministers feel that the online world should be subject to the same rules and regulations as the rest of the world.

While the Government is unsure about how to achieve such control, this is what the resulting Communications Bill will attempt to address. For now, the dynamite is being kept dry.

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This was first published in February 2001


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