Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 19 seconds

The public’s interest in regulating online content providers, including social media platforms, has been growing. However, it has recently widened to encompass a variety of additional areas, such as child welfare, protection of traditional media providers and communications intended to radicalize individuals.

Other industry observers are calling for regulations on influencers.

As critics increasingly call for additional regulations, some industry leaders are taking exception to individuals who refer to the digital domain as the “Wild West” that is free of regulations and law enforcement. They maintain that a patchwork of regulations is already in place and that new regulations should be created in a thoughtful manner.

Just recently, a British parliamentary report from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee referred to social media networks as “digital gangsters” and urged legislators to create additional regulations, according to a recent article from Valley Central.

It maintained that Facebook is violating privacy and competition laws and recommends establishing a code of ethics that would be enforced by a proposed regulator. It also recommends reforms to electoral communication laws and says social media companies should be required to delete harmful content.

Also in the United Kingdom, interest in new regulations intended to protect children appears to be growing, according to an article from Charity Digital News.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), which is one of the largest child advocates in the U.K., has issued a report called Taming the Wild West (PDF).

The report argues that regulators should establish a “duty of care” requirement for social media platforms that would include measures to prevent children from being manipulated into sending revealing photographs or videos of themselves online. More recently, the NSPCC has conducted a survey that determined that six out of ten adults do not think social networks protect children from hazards, such as sexual grooming and inappropriate content about self-harm and suicide.

The European Union, meanwhile, is addressing how to prevent social media platforms for being used to radicalize individuals, reports Euractive.

Regulations were proposed late last year that would require online platforms to detect, identify and remove terrorist content, without encroaching on fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and information. Yet, some observers are questioning if the regulations could lead to censorship of the web.

Australia is also experiencing growing concerns about regulations, reports The Guardian.

In December the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission proposed creating a new entity that could demand details on how Facebook and Google’s algorithms work and determine which content will be shown first. The commission would then work with the new entity to regulate those firms.

Television broadcasters, in particular are seeking more transparency on the matter. They are also lobbying for tax credits to help offset the costs of producing journalism that supports the public interest.

Influencers are also being scrutinized, reports New York Magazine. The influencer industry is growing quickly and is expected to reach as much as $10 billion in revenues by 2020. Influencers can now be paid more than $100,000 to endorse a product.

Unfortunately, some influencers have failed to disclose that they are compensated for pitching products, although in some instances, the FTC in the U.S. has cracked down on the practice. More recently, some influencers are claiming to be paid by brands to increase their appeal.

New York Magazine, however, maintains that with a divided Congress, it’s unlikely that any new regulations will be created in the foreseeable future.

In the U.K., however, techUK, which represents the interest of the technology industry, is taking issue with referring to online content providers as the Wild West. In a Huffington Post column, techUK Deputy CEO Antony Walker maintains that regulation of online content providers are already in place.

He maintains that individuals calling for additional regulations have overlooked basic questions, such as the powers of enforcement that a new regulator should have, how regulators should be staffed and the scope that new entities should have.  

Last modified on Saturday, 23 February 2019
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