Theresa May: UK will be 'leader' on internet regulation

Posted On: 
20th May 2017

Theresa May has vowed that Britain will be a “leader” in regulating the internet to make it “the safest and most secure place for people to be online”.

The Conservative manifesto lays out plans for a commission to look at regulation of the internet
PA Images

The Conservative manifesto said that the government would set up a data-use and ethics commission to decide how technology companies like Google and Facebook should treat personal data. “Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet. We disagree.”

Mrs May said that her past record on forcing companies to act against child sex abuse imagery and extremist content meant she had a good opportunity to work with firms to ensure safety online.

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“I think there is more to do on child security and safety online but I think we showed that it can be done,” she said in an interview with The Times. “It was the Home Secretary... talking to the companies on the national security side and that aspect of it. So I think there is a real opportunity for the UK to be a leader in this.”

Senior Tories told Buzzfeed News that the party wants to impose restrictions on what people can post, share, and publish online.

Experts were sceptical of how much the Prime Minister could achieve, but praised the idea in principle.

Tony Jaffa, a partner at Foot Anstey solicitors, said: “It’s a very laudable aim for Britain to lead the world in policing these companies but I’m not sure how achievable it is. It’s obvious that US tech companies are dominant, and the Americans have a conception of freedom of expression that’s quite different to ours, coming from their ideas about the first amendment.

“It’s not only the companies that don’t accept those responsibilities but US lawmakers too.”

Mark Skilton, professor of practice at Warwick University, added: “The idea of an expert data-use and ethics commission is a good one, given the monopolisation of yours and my data by Google, Facebook and others for advertising and personal services... Whether it can prevent abuses is another matter but the step towards more institutional focus is a good one. It cannot be left to just a few American tech companies to set the data agenda on behalf of other nations.”