Flint manager recognised in International institute of communications future leaders’ competition

24 Sep, 2021

Ewan Lusty, a Flint Manager based in London, won the runner up prize in the International Institute of Communications (IIC) Future Leaders’ Competition for his individual essay on online platform regulation.

The report he submitted to the IIC competition can be found here:

I was gratified this week to learn that I had been awarded a runner up prize by the International Institute of Communications (IIC) in their annual Future Leaders’ Competition. The award was given for a report I submitted in a personal capacity to the IIC’s question: What principles should guide policy-makers in designing local and international approaches for internet intermediaries in the evolving communications environment?

The question related to one of the most complex challenges facing policy makers today: how governments can help protect people online while preserving the benefits platforms have brought to our lives.

I felt I could contribute a lot to this question, having been involved in the debate from a regulatory and industry perspective. Before joining Flint’s Policy and Political Analysis practice in London to work on digital issues, I worked at the Home Office on this agenda.

In my report, I argue that policy-makers should first develop realistic and clear objectives. It is neither practical nor desirable to aim for an Internet in which we entirely eradicate the potential for harm, and to try to do so would negatively impact on the benefits that online services provide and risk damaging freedom of expression.

Instead, policy-makers should place greater emphasis on the overarching objective of strengthening trust. A more realistic measure of success would be that individual users trust that there is a fair and effective framework for balancing the objectives of protecting against harm and promoting free expression.

In my report, I also outline six principles that could guide policy-makers as they seek to balance these objectives:

  • Clarity: clear responsibilities for online platforms are important for providing certainty for users and platforms alike.
  • Adaptability: regulatory approaches should be able to adapt to the fast-changing nature of online services themselves and the policy issues relating to them.
  • Accountability: regulatory approaches should strengthen accountability for governments, online services and users.
  • Empowerment: regulatory approaches should aim to increase individual users’ choice and control over the online environment.
  • Practicality: regulatory approaches should take account of the commercial impact and should preserve flexibility for continuous innovation.
  • Cooperation:  regulatory approaches should provide for transparent, inclusive, and effective cooperation between relevant stakeholders.  

Parliament is starting to scrutinise the UK Government’s proposals, and the debate over online platform regulation will run and run. This will be a fascinating and intellectually demanding debate - do get in touch if you would like to discuss my paper in more detail over a coffee.

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