This week, the government released their report into Online Harms which will inform future legislation on material distributed via the internet. I pointed out in Parliament that there is a great deal of material online which would be quite properly illegal offline, and that any legislation needs to put us on a secure legal footing when we consider the possible future directions of the online world.
Online you can find medical advice from people with no medical knowledge, place bets with none of the safeguards which a bookies would have to comply with, harass people, distribute music and other creative output without rewarding those who made it and much more. This is quite rightly regulated offline. And of course there is the routine harvesting of our own personal data and our browsing history to sell for commercial exploitation – online our own lives can be used to sell us other products.
As a result of our ageing legislation, content providers and publishers on the Internet operate as a lawless wild west, where material such as fake medical advice and fake news can be distributed without repercussion. I pushed the Secretary of State to look at the whole range of possible online harms to make sure any legislation we introduce creates proper parity between law that applies online and offline.