2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Its founder and digital pioneer, Tim Berners-Lee has expressed his disappointment in how it has turned out. He called for stronger online regulations to be put in place to keep power in the hands of the people it was built for.
The tech giants
At the moment, the internet is ruled by tech giants including Google and Facebook. There is little competition with these companies, and consumers are forced to share their data to access every day online activity, such as shopping or social media.
The companies are huge and have managed to maintain their presence by using algorithms to crush competitors. Alternatively, they have used their wealth to buy them out.
What are the other issues?
Features that were meant for everyone to access, such as choosing a domain name, are in the hands of businesses that charge up to hundreds of thousands of pounds for a URL. This is a price way out the average start-up budget and companies are harder to find and struggle to connect with customers as a result.
As well as the financial issue, consumers are less trusting of the internet as a whole.
The model of regulations in Germany is something many other countries are looking to achieve. The government introduced a law named NetzDG, which requires social media giants such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to remove hate speech, fake news and controversial content within 24 hours and a survey shows that the practice has a massive 87% approval rate from German citizens.
The Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal was a huge turning point for the average consumer. It highlighted how little awareness there is of how consumers’ personal data is stored and used.
When signing into social media, many don’t give a thought about what personal information they are sharing with what they believe are close friends and family.
Now, however, consumers are warier than ever about the details they share online. They are also inquisitive of where it goes and how it is used.
How can this change?
The Government launched an independent review, led by Professor Jason Furman. The review investigated the digital economy and the UK’s place.
The review found that consumers are currently given little control over their own data. The panel found that more competition is needed.
Following the introduction of the General Data Protection Rule (GDPR), some power over how data is used went back to the people. As a result, businesses must now inform the user how their data will be used and the processes in place to ensure it’s protected.
Recommendations for online regulations
To ensure that Britain continues to be one of the leaders in the digital revolution, the panel recommended:
A digital markets unit should be set up by the Government.
This unit would give consumers more power by legally enforcing a code of conduct.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should be supported by a change in rules.
This would allow them to prevent mergers that will negatively impact competition.
More international engagement on these issues.