chapter  6
20 Pages

Internet content and self-regulation

The development of Internet content self-regulation over the past decade has been a rapid and creative process. Coordinated with reference to key policy statements such as the European recommendation (98/560/EC),1 Internet self-regulation has drawn on previous traditions and tools of regulation in related sectors such as telephony, press and broadcasting, but has developed wholly new and peculiar paradigms that have raised fundamental constitutional issues relating to freedom of expression, privacy and other rights, as well as problems of enforcement and jurisdiction. Whilst an overall family resemblance of regulatory approaches has emerged on a global level, with some key regional variations, there is little indication that this system of Internet content self-regulation is stabilising as a paradigm, and no indication that the key problem of jurisdiction in a global medium has found resolution. The rate of change in the sector remains too fast to permit stabilisation of a regulatory scheme. Broadband rollout is leading to convergence with broadcasting, games and other services and the rollout of the wireless Internet leads to wholly new forms of service and regulatory dilemma. There remain tensions with fundamental constitutional rights, and uncertainties about effectiveness of regulation and about the range of new harms that emerge in the process of innovation. The harms associated with Internet content and the rationale for regulation of the Internet have been described in previous chapters. Alongside the general concerns with positive and negative externalities and market failure, rationales for some form of intervention include specific issues such as protection of children from inappropriate content and contact; spam; spyware; invasion of privacy; and also various forms of illegal content. Those that have received most attention in this respect include child pornography, copyright infringement, hate speech, and security against malicious code.