More harm than good? The perils of regulating online content

  • Online communication and sharing of user generated content have become part of everyday life, but have long worried governments, which have sought to monitor and gain access for reasons of security and crime prevention.

  • Until recently, digital platforms were considered to be socially beneficial, and legal measures were passed in jurisdictions including the EU and the United States to facilitate the hosting of user generated content.

  • Governments are increasingly worried about what they consider to be the ‘harmful’ content that is widely available through digital platforms. It has been claimed that democratic processes have been subverted by online disinformation and misinformation, and that children and even adults are at risk of psychological harm and exploitation from offensive or inappropriate material.

  • Measures are being pursued to counter these perceived harms, including the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation and the UK government’s forthcoming Online Safety Bill.

  • This paper considers the need for such measures and the risks of unintended consequences.

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Head of Regulatory Affairs

Victoria joined the IEA’s International Trade and Competition Unit in Spring 2018. She is a lawyer and practiced for 12 years in the fields of technology and financial services, before joining the Legatum Institute Special Trade Commission to focus on trade and regulatory policy. She has published work on the implications and opportunities of Brexit in financial services and movement of goods and the issues in connection with the Irish border. Before entering the legal profession Victoria worked for Procter & Gamble in the UK and Germany.