Only Thing UK Agrees On Is Regulating Social

In the absence of any cohesion over Brexit, a debate where whatever you say you annoy half the electorate, the new guaranteed way of getting votes is turning out to be hitting the tech giants with the threat of fines over harmful content.

There doesn't, by law, have to be another UK election until May 2022 -- but either way for online platforms, the news by then will either be bad or about to be bad.

Both today's Conservative Government and any future Labor administration are now publicly committed to regulating the internet. That was the clear takeaway of yesterday's announcements from both parties on Safer Internet Day.

It may have escaped everyone's notice that the last election did actually see a commitment from the Conservatives to better regulate the internet. You can forgive people for allowing it sink into the background with all the comings and goings of Brexit. This rather suggests that what both parties need, in a deeply divided nation, is an idea all can nod along to in approval.

As reported in MAD London yesterday, the Government used Safer Internet Day to announce that it would be producing a white paper later this month that will set out how it intends to deal with tech giants -- aka social media platforms -- that do not deal with harmful material in a timely manner.

There will be a period of consultation where many voices will call for the need for the big platforms to accept the responsibility of being publishers. The social giants will admit they could do better as they try to get the best deal possible out of proposed regulation. It's what they have always done, and it's what they are still doing.

Today the story has moved on with a firm commitment by Labour, via its Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, that it will bring in an internet regulator. Watson makes the point to The Guardian that every day companies face huge fines if they contravene health and safety legislation. The same should apply to the internet via an internet regulator with the power to raise massive fines. 

Watson told the paper that the Labour Party would also consider splitting up the tech giants and forcing social platforms to give users more control over their data, including switching between platforms more easily. 

it's not clear how this would work, but one thing social media giants may want to be aware of is that a Government minister yesterday did not rule out that top American officials from sites that do not keep harmful content in check could be arrested if they enter the UK. 

So splitting up the tech giants, arresting executives at Heathrow Airport? It all sounds rather unlikely and a case of neither party wanting to be seen as going soft on a debate that pretty much unites the country -- unlike the main piece of business the Government is trying push through ahead of March's deadline for the UK to leave the EU.

There are two take-outs that are inescapable. Yesterday we discovered the Government was committed to regulating the internet, today we've found out the opposition party is too. Whichever way the current political debacle goes, self regulation is over.

In a political landscape that is so divided, having a pop at the tech giants is fair game, it's the one thing the politicians and the electorate can agree on. 

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