Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, released a statement regarding the recent publication of the Online Harms White Paper. The White Paper proposed establishing in law a new duty of care towards users, which will be overseen by an independent regulator.
The Government confirmed in its statement that it will follow the proposals set out in the Online Harms White Paper. Additionally, the Government will not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification regulations, and will instead deliver the objectives through its proposed online harms regulatory regime.
The White Paper presented a series of questions open to individuals and organisations about the design of the new regulatory framework and non-legislative package. In response to these questions, TIGA has offered numerous recommendations:
- the new regulator must clearly specify in the planned codes of conduct what measures companies will need to take in order to demonstrate that they have fulfilled their duty of care to their users;
- online harms within the scope of the regulation must be properly defined;
- the introduction of the new statutory duty of care and the new regulator’s codes of practice should be introduced in a proportionate manner, to avoid imposing a disproportionate regulatory burden on the UK’s many small video games businesses;
- global businesses which are located outside of the UK, but which provide and sell services and tools to UK consumers, should be subject to the new regulatory framework;
- a clear and proportionate expectation must be set by the regulator with regards to responding to and resolving a user’s complaint about specific pieces of harmful user-generated content;
- users should have access to a simple and easy-to-access user complaints tool, allowing issues to be raised by users with service providers;
- organisations with the largest resources should fund the regulator and its various activities;
- the Government should ensure that the UK’s research councils invest in new safety technologies and games businesses should be able to use R&D Tax Relief and/or Video Games Tax Relief to enable them to invest in effective safety technologies;
- the Government and/or the regulator should commission quality third party research to ascertain appropriate time limits for playing games; and,
- the Government should produce information packs for parents and users of online services within the scope of this regulation.
Dr Richard Wilson OBE, TIGA CEO said:
“TIGA supports the Government’s plan to establish a new statutory ‘duty of care’ to make companies take more responsibility for the safety of their users. We also support the intention for an independent regulator to oversee this duty of care, issue codes of practice and to enforce compliance.
“TIGA strongly supports the Government’s intention that the regulator will take a proportionate approach to regulating. It is expected that a proportionate approach will be enshrined in legislation by making it clear that companies must do what is ‘reasonably practicable’.
“TIGA also welcomes the Government’s intention that the regulator will have a duty of innovation; make compliance straightforward; use technology; and minimise compliance costs. The UK’s video games development and digital publishing sector overwhelmingly consists of SMEs, with 66 per cent employing four or fewer people. It is critically important that the new regulatory framework protects online users whilst ensuring that the UK is the best place to start and grow a digital business.”