Public Services > Central Government

Hancock: "Internet must be built on liberal not libertarian values"

Matteo Natalucci Published 13 September 2017

Digital minister insists the “big players on the Internet” must take more responsibility for their actions, and signalled the publication of the Data Protection Bill on Thursday


Digital minister Matt Hancock has presented his vision of the 'future of the Internet'.

Addressing the UK Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which was first developed ten years ago, Hancock said the UK “must create the world’s most dynamic digital economy, giving digital businesses access to the investment, skills and infrastructure they need to succeed.”

He pointed to the importance of the government’s digital skills partnership, as well as initiatives such as the £1.7bn broadband rollout, and the £1.1bn next generation full fibre and 5G strategy. He also supported the plan to introduce coding for every child in the curriculum.

Discussing the future of the Internet, Hancock  praised the “extraordinary impact it’s had”, and discussed  “what we need to do to harness its exponential power, while preventing harm and abuse, so that it serves humanity, spreads human ingenuity and enhances human freedom.”

Hancock praised the benefits and innovation that multinational Internet companies have provided across the globe.

"Google helping inform the world. Amazon cutting your shopping bill. Uber getting you there faster and cheaper. Apple building amazing products and helping save the music industry. Facebook connecting us and Twitter helping people communicate", Hancock said .

But he also highlighted the risks prevalent in an unregulated Internet, such as terrorist radicalisation and child abuse.

"This happens because the Internet is open and free. And in the battle to keep it open and free, even the most ardent supporter of new technology like me needs to acknowledge that untrammelled and in the wrong hands, the power of the Internet and big data pose serious risks," Hancock said.

Hancock advocated enhancing Internet regulation to safeguard vulnerable persons and copyright ownership.

The minister said the government  will shortly  set out a new code of practice that lays out what social media providers must do in relation to conduct on their platforms.

“This period of tech utopia was built on a libertarian attitude that the online world was different, and the old rules could be cast aside. As we all learn when we move from adolescence to maturity, coming of age means taking more responsibility for our actions. And so too must the Internet, and the big players on it.

“In many ways, the platforms already recognise they must take a measure of responsibility for what’s on their sites and that they are not simply conduits for the content there.”

He continued, “In other words, we must build an Internet based on liberal and not libertarian values, where we cherish freedom yet prevent harm to others.

“We seek an Internet that is free, open and safe, that fosters innovation, where standards are driven by experts, in which all stakeholders have a say in how the Internet is run, and where the major players act to prevent harm.”

Hancock also insisted there must be no more “turning a blind eye to abuse online.”

Hancock said the UK wanted to be the “world leader in innovation-friendly, agile regulation, like our fintech regulatory sandbox, now being copied by other regulators at home and abroad," he said.

He also signalled the publication tomorrow of the Data Protection Bill, which, he said, “…will bring our data protection regime into the twenty first century, giving citizens more sovereignty over their data, and greater penalties for those who break the rules.”

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