First, the one that may have gone under the radar. The Council of Europe
unveiled its new Expert Committee on Freedom of Expression and Digital Technologies
, a group of 13 people from 7 countries that have been tasked with creating a draft recommendation on the impacts of digital technologies on freedom of expression. Over the next two years, the nattily named MSI-DIG committee will also put together a guidance note on content moderation practices for the Council’s 47 member states. Even if you think the Council of Europe doesn’t have the heft that it used to
, this feels like a positive step.
Then, there’s the announcement you might have heard about. This week, the UK government released the initial consultation response
to its April 2019 Online Harms White Paper
, which had sought to introduce a new duty of care for companies towards their users and appoint a regular to oversee complaints and fines.
I won’t go into the reaction here but the overall feeling seems to be: there’s a lot of work to do. (Tech UK’s response
is worth reading as are Heather Burns
and Will Perrin’s
Twitter threads). The final paper will be published in the Spring.
What can we glean when we put the two side-by-side? One thing for sure: that regulation will be about ‘legal and procedural frameworks’ (taken from the MIS-DIG terms of reference
) and ‘systems, procedures, technologies and investment’ (Online Harms wording). It won’t be about removing individual pieces of content.
That might seem obvious to many but the Online Harms white paper was a ‘bit of a jumble’
and suggested that the regulator would adjudicate on individual matters or notice and redress. That would have been disastrous.
As it is, these two processes have come from different starting places to rest in a similar spot. It’s not much when there’s still a great deal to thrash out (and go wrong) in both cases but it’s a start.