On 9 April 2019, the Government published its Online Harms White Paper. The White Paper proposes establishing in law a new duty of care towards users, which will be overseen by an independent regulator.
The regulatory framework will apply to companies that provide services or tools that allow, enable or facilitate users to share or discover user-generated content, or interact with each other online.
There are a number of policy and regulatory proposals that may have an impact on the video games industry. Details of these proposals are below:
Safety by Design
- The Government want to introduce a Safety by Design framework, helping companies incorporate online safety throughout the development or update of online services.
- It is expected that this framework will set out clear principles and practical guidance on how to include online safety features in new applications and platforms from the start, targeted at digital product teams, including designers, developers and user researchers.
- The Government expect the framework will be complemented by existing privacy by design and security by design standards. For example, it will reflect and signpost the forthcoming Age-appropriate design code and the Code of Practice for Consumer Internet of Things Security.
- The Government will expect companies, where appropriate, to have an effective and easy-to-access complaints function, allowing users to raise either concerns about specific pieces of harmful content or activity.
- There will also be an expectation on companies to respond to complaints received in a timely, clear and transparent manner.
- Users will also be able to raise wider concerns that a company within the scope of the regulation has breached its duty of care.
- The Government wants to develop a culture of transparency, trust and accountability. To achieve this, the regulator will have the power to require annual transparency reports from companies in scope, outlining the prevalence of harmful content on their platforms and what countermeasures they are taking to address these.
- These reports will be published online by the regulator, so that users and parents can make informed decisions about online use. The regulator will also have powers to require additional information, including about the operation of algorithms in selecting content for users and to ensure that companies proactively report on both emerging and known harms.
- The Government intends the new regulator to quickly become cost neutral to the public sector. To recoup the set-up costs and ongoing running costs, the Government is considering fees, charges or a levy on companies whose services are in scope.
What happens next?
The Government is consulting with interested groups about the design of the new regulatory framework and non-legislative package. More information on the White Paper and consultation questions can be found here.
If you have any feedback on the consultation questions or concerns with any of the proposals within the White Paper, please contact email@example.com and we can include your comments in our consultation response. TIGA will also be engaging more closely with TIGA members regarding the policy over the coming weeks.