Trust Welcomes Online Harms White Paper

April 8, 2019

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Professor Lorna Woods and William Perrin (Trustee, Carnegie UK Trust) said:

“We welcome the Online Harms White Paper, a powerful, systems-based proposal to protect people from online harms.  We are pleased that the Government proposes a statutory duty of care enforced by a regulator as part of its legislative reform.

“We believe that, based on our detailed work for Carnegie UK Trust a statutory duty of care enforced by a regulator is the most effective way to protect users from reasonably foreseeable harms while also upholding freedom of speech and allowing innovation to flourish.

We note that the government has chosen to take a very broad approach to all internet harms, as signalled in its May 2018 response to the Green Paper. While this is broader than that we proposed, it is in keeping with other legislative approaches, such as health and safety law, where duties of care cover all establishments, not just the dangerous or high risk ones.’

“We now need to study how the Government proposes to implement a statutory duty of care and we look forward to contributing to the consultation process.’

Notes for editors

Professor Lorna Woods (University of Essex, Professor of Internet Law) and William Perrin (Trustee, former government technology policy advisor) in 2018-19 produced and refined a proposal for a statutory duty of care on social media service providers to protect users and others from reasonably foreseeable harm, enforced by a regulator. They propose a systemic, rather than palliative approach to internet harms, with the duty of care focused on companies having safe systems, not just relying upon victims to complain when things go wrong.

Their work is being conducted with the Carnegie UK Trust as part of the Trust’s Digital Futures policy and practice programme which aims to enhance the impact that technology has on the wellbeing of people in the UK and Ireland.

The most recent version of the Woods/Perrin approach to a statutory duty of care can be found here

Following publication of the Woods/Perrin work in Spring 2018, duties of care were recommended by the Lords Communications Select Committee, the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, the UK Chief Medical Officers, the Children’s Commissioner, the NSPCC supported by Herbert Smith Freehills, the 5 Rights Foundation, the Labour Party, the Royal Society for Public Health-supported APPG on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and supported by a long running campaign in the Daily Telegraph.

Each body recommending a statutory duty of care has proposed a slightly different variant and the government has also done so today.  Carnegie UK Trust will consider the Government’s proposals and publish its response to the consultation shortly.

Carnegie UK Trust

The Carnegie UK Trust works to improve the lives of people throughout the UK and Ireland, by changing minds through influencing policy, and by changing lives through innovative practice and partnership work. The Carnegie UK Trust was established by Scots-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1913.