Advanced Television

The law is the law?

June 6, 2024

‘The law is the law’ is often a less black and white statement than it appears, even when talking about a single country. When talking about international or global issues, the law becomes ever more uncertain, in its interpretation and, even more, in its implementation.

And that is why it is close to impossible to ‘control’, or regulate, the internet, or, indeed, its dominant players. They are too big, too rich and too omnipresent to control. Unless, that is, enough national jurisdictions make enough progress through regulators, and in their courts, that the offending players decide to change policies as a result.

At the moment there is the feeling that the big internet players fight reforms to the last ditch and then are sanguine about paying over massive fines – because they can.

But there is a head of steam building: in this year of elections, there is increased sensitivity to the responsibility of platforms to do more to verify the content they promote. There is also increasing common ground across the political spectrum that platforms should take more responsibility for content that can – indeed is intended to – cause harm to the vulnerable, or to the fabric of society in general.

Also, many commercial players have reached the conclusion that the internet, and its dominant players, that they once, either enthusiastically or reluctantly, accepted as a means by which they could conduct their business, is now in danger of destroying them. Increasingly deciding they have to run ahead of the regulators, there are now many civil cases being brought: anti-trust and abuse of dominant position cases (in the advertising field) and breach of copyright cases (in the newsfeed and AI training field).

The internet was, and is, a route to progress through innovation. No one should want to cage the beast. But its biggest beasts do need to be house-trained, or we are all going to have to live with the mess. These companies are not pioneers in the wild frontier anymore – indeed their tendency to kill-off innovative new players is another significant problem. The consensus that they must take responsibility for their actions has been a long time coming, but is welcome nonetheless.

Categories: AI, Blogs, Nick Snow, Off Message, Policy, Regulation, Standards

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