ODA Responds to UK Government’s Online Harms White Paper

The Online Dating Association (ODA) has published a response to the UK Government White Paper consultation on Internet Safety.

The original 102-page document, produced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, “sets out the government’s plans for a world-leading package of measures to keep UK users safe online.”

It aims to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online, as well as the best place to establish an online company. The paper sets out an eight-point vision, stating that the internet should protect freedom of expression, be open and secure, and keep users protected. 

There are two specific mentions of dating apps, both relating to instances of children or underage teens accessing the services.

The Online Dating Association has set out its thoughts in a 10-page downloadable document. The organisation offers a series of take-home points:

“Our top line messages are:

1. We agree further action is needed to address online harms.

2. Online harms, like harm in the physical world can take endless forms.

3. Regulation should only happen when and where necessary. It should, per Ofcom and other guidance, be objectively justified and the minimum necessary to achieve the goal set.

4. If any legislation and regulation is not to affect every provider of any kind of Information Society Services (ISS), the Government needs to focus down on the specific goals it wishes to achieve and on the hosting and other services that relate to these harms.

5. Online dating services have a single reference in the White Paper: reflecting the specific singular purpose services provide and their irrelevance to the harms highlighted in the White Paper.

6. We think the Government right not to propose regulation specific to dating services.

7. Dating service providers will continue on a voluntary basis to apply age rules to use of their services and will continue to develop mechanics for ensuring this policy is applied.

8. An approach that prioritises the risks to be addressed by any new regime should not reach into matters already addressed by existing law and existing regulators. Any new regulatory body should focus on social media providers that host, promote and accelerate content that could cause serious offence and encourage harmful actions.

9. Targeting is critical to adding value and delivering new protections without causing regulatory conflict, overlaps, inconsistencies and an approach that is contrary to existing Community law relating to providers of ISS.

10. Proportionality matters. Most members of the ODA are UK based UK-focused entities of varied but unexceptional scale. Measures that seem proportionate to global social media providers could cause severe damage to UK businesses if applied to all and sundry and in a standard format.”

Read more here.