William Eichler 13 February 2020

Council chiefs welcome appointment of Ofcom as ‘online harms regulator’

Local authority leaders have welcomed the Government’s announcement that the telecoms and broadcasting regulator will be responsible for regulating online platforms.

The digital secretary Nicky Morgan and home secretary Priti Patel have announced that the Government ‘is minded’ to give Ofcom new powers to regulate social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

The move is part of plans to protect children and vulnerable people online and give consumers greater confidence to use technology.

The Government also argues it will provide the certainty technology businesses need to flourish while creating a ‘fair and proportionate’ regulatory environment.

‘With Ofcom at the helm of a proportionate and strong regulatory regime, we have an incredible opportunity to lead the world in building a thriving digital economy, driven by groundbreaking technology, that is trusted by and protects everyone in the UK,’ said Ms Morgan.

‘We will give the regulator the powers it needs to lead the fight for an internet that remains vibrant and open but with the protections, accountability and transparency people deserve.’

The announcement comes as the Government publishes its initial response to the public consultation on the Online Harms White Paper.

Ms Patel commented: ‘While the internet can be used to connect people and drive innovation, we know it can also be a hiding place for criminals, including paedophiles, to cause immense harm.

‘It is incumbent on tech firms to balance issues of privacy and technological advances with child protection. That’s why it is right that we have a strong regulator to ensure social media firms fulfil their vital responsibility to vulnerable users.’

Cllr James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), described the decision to appoint Ofcom as ‘a step in the right direction’.

‘One of our most pressing concerns is the increasing incidents of intimidation and abuse of our elected representatives,’ he said.

‘These attacks risk the personal safety of councillors, undermine local democracy and can put off prospective candidates from standing.

‘Plans to appoint Ofcom as an online harms regulator is a step in the right direction and we hope it will go some way to reducing abuse and intimidation of elected officials and all other users of online platforms, including children and vulnerable adults.’

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