The release of DCMS’ online safety innovation report is a welcome reminder of UK’s reputation as an innovation nation. The significant growth of some of the industry, estimated at 35% annually since 2016, highlights the breadth and strength of the UK’s digital sector which has been growing six times faster than the rest of the economy.
The work of these dedicated ‘Safety Tech’ companies builds on the safety innovation work of tech companies themselves – such as Microsoft’s release of PhotoDNA to tackle online CSE to Google’s development of Perspective API to improve content moderation. Partnerships have also been key in supporting this work, including the establishment of cross-sector, industry supported organisations such as the Internet Watch Foundation, The Technology Coalition and the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism.
To enable both the dedicated SafetyTech industry and the rest of the digital sector to thrive a stable policy environment is required, and this should be the objective of the Government’s Online Harms White Paper. A clear, stable and predictable regulatory framework, outlining the meaning of a Duty of Care and companies’ obligations will enable all to develop the most effective solutions.
Given the issues at play a full and proper consultation process is vital. An exploration into the efficacy and desirability of some solutions being mooted, including their opportunities, challenges and limitations is critical. Rushing legislation without proper consideration for these discussions could lead to unworkable and ineffective solutions.
As we move forward we must maintain focus on developing the most effective and appropriate safety solutions in each circumstance. For many start-ups the assistance of the dedicated SafetyTech industry will be invaluable in creating a safer environment on their platform and service and to achieve their regulatory obligations. However, they should not be considered a silver bullet.
For many established or rapidly growing companies the most effective safety solution may be one that is tailored to their product and service, and developed in-house. It is often the companies themselves who are best placed to know how their product is used, the needs of their users and the best tools suited to addressing their challenges, allowing them to dedicate their financial and technological resources to creating the safest and most secure environment for their users.