Lords committee calls for evidence on digital regulation

House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee has called for evidence to inform its inquiry into the effectiveness of digital regulation

A House of Lords committee has launched an inquiry into the work of digital regulators in the UK, and is looking for evidence.

The Lords’ Communications and Digital Committee wants to investigate how effective digital regulation really is, following its report on digital regulation published in March 2019. 

The report found that regulators had not kept up with advances in digital technologies, that it was a fragmented space, often with gaps and overlaps in regulation. 

Now, following the government’s draft Online Safety Bill, the committee wants to investigate how co-ordinated digital regulation is, and how effective the Digital Regulation Co-operation Forum, which was established in July 2020 but holds no statutory powers, really is.

The proposed bill, formerly known as the Online Harms Bill, seeks to promote safety online by making internet companies and service providers more accountable for the content shared by users on their platforms.

But the bill has been criticised by members of the newly established Legal to Say, Legal to Type campaign group, who say the bill as it currently stands cedes too much power over UK citizens’ freedom of speech to Silicon Valley.

The committee is also seeking evidence on how effective digital regulators’ horizon scanning is, as well as the effectiveness of Parliament in overseeing digital regulation and how UK regulators co-operate with international partners.

In July 2021, the government set out its plan for digital regulation, which includes guiding principles to be followed by policymakers, such as actively promoting innovation wherever they can by removing “unnecessary regulation and burden”, and taking a non-regulatory approach where possible. 

It also aims to achieve forward-looking and coherent outcomes, ensure that regulation complements, rather than contradicts, current legislation, and calls on policymakers to take a global view of innovation, considering the “international dynamics” of planned regulation.

Committee chair Lord Gilbert said the committee wants to “investigate the effectiveness of digital regulation at a time when regulators are expected to take on new powers”. 

The Lords committee wants written contributions to reach it by 22 October 2021 before holding evidence sessions in the coming months.

Read more about digital regulation

  • Digital and technology ministers outline their agenda for how technology can be used to facilitate the post-Covid recovery, signalling closer collaboration in key areas of the digital economy.
  • A forum of UK regulators with remits over different aspects of the digital economy has outlined its priorities for the coming year, which include developing joined-up regulatory approaches and building up shared skills and capabilities.
  • The government’s digital regulation plan aims to make the UK a “global leader” in digital regulation, boost economic growth and maximise the potential of digital technology.

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