In Government, @UKLabour developed forward-looking regulations for tech sector & to protect consumers: (Comms Act 2003). In 12 years, Tories have failed to rein in the tech power, or protect citizens. The Online Safety Bill is at least a year away. Their negligence has caused real harm!
I congratulate the Joint Committee on an excellent report, consisting of 191 pages of well-researched, balanced, temperate and intelligent analysis and recommendations. It is rare to find such qualities when it comes to subjects as important as online harms and, indeed, technology in the society of today. I will not go through the report’s recommendations in detail because I do not have the time, but also because I support and welcome just about all of them. I will mention, for example, the design for safety recommendation, which I think is excellent, but it is one among many excellent recommendations. Instead, I will focus my remarks on why this report needs to be implemented as quickly as possible and what else needs to happen.
I want to start by speaking in praise of technology. I count myself as a tech evangelist. We have to think how many lives have been saved by remote medicine, how many marriages have been saved by not having to argue about the best way to get directions to an event, how much joy has been shared through cat memes or whatever, and how many businesses have been started on such platforms. Technology can and should be a force for good. That is why I went into engineering—to make the world work better for everyone—and my final year project at Imperial College was on a remote alarm to support people who need care in their own homes.
Engineering should be a force for good, but as the report sets out, that is no longer how it is seen. Many of my constituents, for example, feel they are being tracked, monitored, surveilled and analysed, and they feel undermined because they do not want to have to go online to do what they want to do without feeling safe and secure. Self-regulation is broken, as the report says, and it did not need to be this way. Some of us may remember concerns, back when the web started out, that if it was used for commercial purposes, people would be flamed with emails and condemned for trying to advertise or do direct marketing on the web. Somehow, however, the web was captured by those on what I can only describe as the libertarian right, who sought to maintain the lie that technology and the internet were nothing to do with Government, while building monopolistic platforms with more money and more power than most Governments. Their attitude to regulation and Government, as I remember from my days at Ofcom, was often that if they ignored them, regulation and Government would go away.
Read my full speech in the House of Commons – and the full debate in Hansard – here