Britain’s proposed online harms law is an early skirmish in forthcoming battles between regulators and Silicon Valley, says GlobalData

Following the announcement of the UK government’s Online Harms White Paper,

Cyrus Mewawalla, Head of Thematic Research at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, says tech firms’ lawyers will be buckling up for a busy year:

“2019 will be the year that governments finally take action against the social ills promoted by Big Tech. The UK has been increasingly noisy over digital services taxes and this Online Harms White Paper is the first battle in what will be an increasingly attritional war. Social media firms have seen this coming. In anticipation of this day, Facebook hired Nick Clegg six months ago and will have war-gamed these scenarios several times over.

“Public tolerance of misinformation, especially during elections; obstruction of justice – British police often have trouble obtaining access to the social media accounts of murder suspects – and the pervasiveness of various forms of online child abuse has reached its limits.

“While Britain’s measures of a mandatory ‘duty of care’ and the appointment of a regulator will be noted by Silicon Valley, it will be more concerned about any regulation that comes out of Europe. Europe has shown a willingness to take on tech firms and GDPR has become the benchmark for data protection legislation. If Europe builds on the principle that users have sovereignty over their data and so allows interoperability between services – so that users can easily switch between providers, for example, to firms that treat customers more ethically or give them a cut of advertising revenues – then tech firms’ highly paid lawyers will really have to start earning their corn.

“Regulation will continue to be a big theme for Big Tech for the rest of 2019 and compliance costs for Facebook, Google, Amazon and Twitter will rise.”

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