*** DEBUG END ***

House of Lords report calls for digital controls

15 March 2019

Lords’ report urges improved regulation to tackle online harm


PEERS have called for the creation of a digital authority with wide powers to safeguard the internet, particularly for children, and to regulate the big technology companies.

In a report published this week, the House of Lords Communications Committee warns that the current “patchwork” of more than a dozen regulators creates both gaps and overlaps, and it accused the technology giants such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google of failing to tackle adequately online harm. It also calls for expanding the part played by OFCOM, to enforce a duty of care on those companies.

The report, Regulating in a Digital World, proposes a set of basic tenets for the authority, including the need to protect young, vulnerable internet users. In a blog coinciding with the report, one committee member, the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell (Comment, 25 January), writes: “All sorts of inappropriate and illegal material are available to anyone who has a smart phone in their pocket — whatever their age — from online bullying to do-it-yourself advice on how to self-harm. Things that would not be tolerated offline, flourish in the online environment. Parents in particular feel anxious and out of control.

“Jesus reserves his most stinging opprobrium for those who make life difficult for children. And it is children who are most at risk from an ineffectively regulated internet. Equally important, a faith perspective maintains that human flourishing requires the foundations of a strong and agreed ethical framework. It is this that is lacking online. When other things are wrong in our society, people demand that something must be done. With the internet, people are aware of the problem, but feel powerless. They don’t think anything can be done. But it can.”

The committee’s idea is that “the whole way we interact with the digital world is designed differently so that the services that constitute the digital world can be held accountable to this agreed and enforceable set of principles,” the Bishop writes. “So this isn’t just about mitigating against the worst of the internet’s excesses by making our children more resilient to its harms, as some seem to suggest. It is a whole new approach. And because this is such an important issue for our children’s well-being, for the safeguarding of our democracy, and for the future development of every aspect of our civilisation and learning, the Government must see this as something that they oversee at the highest level possible. It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of our culture depends on it.”

The committee’s chairman, Lord Gilbert of Panteg, said: “Self-regulation by online platforms which host user-generated content, including social-media platforms, is failing. Their moderation processes are unacceptably opaque and slow.

“Harmful, anti-social content — available freely on many platforms — is now greater than ever before. Tech companies have a special responsibility, yet they have not done enough to reduce online harm.”

He called for severer penalties for technology companies breaking the rules, and fines based on a percentage of their global turnover.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM: 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Church Times/Canterbury Press:

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

Early bird tickets available



Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)