11 March 2019 at 16:46 BST

UK in call for new digital 'super-regulator'

House of Lords calls for a regulatory framework to hold big technology companies accountable, while AI committee takes aim at judiciary.

Michal Bednarek

A UK’s House of Lords communications committee has made calls for a new regulatory framework for digital services to hold big technology companies accountable.

No single body

The committee's report, 'Regulating in a digital world', concludes that digital industry regulation has failed to keep pace with the role of digital technology in our lives, with more than 12 UK regulators responsible for the digital market but no single body with complete oversight. This has resulted in major technology companies failing to adequately tackle online dangers as regulation of the sector is fragmented with gaps and overlaps. The report recommends the creation of a new ‘Digital Authority’ to regulate the digital world based on a set of 10 principles. This new digital authority will co-ordinate regulators, continually assess regulations and make recommendations about any additional powers needed to fill gaps. It would report to a new joint committee of both Houses of Parliament. The 10 principles guiding all regulation of the internet would include transparency, accountability, respect for privacy and freedom of expression. The Committee also wants a duty of care to be imposed on online services hosting and curating content which can be uploaded and accessed by the public, with Ofcom's remit expanded to enforce this duty of care. It also wants online platforms to adopt a new classification framework, similar to the one operated by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), and to make more investment in effective moderation systems. The report also recommends that users should have more control over the collection of their personal information, with maximum safety and privacy settings set as the default. The House of Lords report can be found here.

Hot on the heels
The news follows hot on the heels of the announcement of a new body set up to advise the judiciary of England and Wales on developments in artificial intelligence (AI). The 10-members AI advisory group is chaired by Professor Richard Susskind. Judges dominate the group with four senior judicial members: Lord Neuberger, past president of the Supreme Court; Sir Geoffrey Vos, chancellor of the High Court; Lady Justice Sharp, vice-president of the Queen’s Bench Division; and Mr Justice Birss, supervising judge for the Midland, Wales and Western Circuits. Orlando Conetta, head of innovation at international firm Pinsent Masons, is the one representative form a solicitor firm, though he is not a lawyer. The bar is represented by Matthew Lavy of 4 Pump Court and former barrister Kay Firth-Butterfield, head of AI and machine learning at the World Economic Forum. John Sorabji, principal legal adviser to the lord chief justice, will also sit on the group, joined by leading academic expert Professor Katie Atkinson, of the University of Liverpool. The lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, said ‘here and around the world, insufficient attention has been paid by judges to its impact on the work of the courts. Our new group should remedy this gap.’ Meanwhile, the Law Society’s public policy commission on algorithms in the justice system revealed that it will report on its year-long investigation on 4 June.


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