Earlier this month, on April 8th, Ministers pledged that the UK is set to feature the strictest Internet laws on a global scale. The revelations have been made at a time when the British Government is unveiling a new piece of legislation set to protect children online.
The Government has reported its willingness to impose a duty of care on underage individuals, so the White Paper of digital harms was officially unveiled, concluding that the technology giants which operate on the territory of the country are not capable of regulating themselves. But is there a chance for the proposal to find an actual solution to the problem and effectively protect the most vulnerable residents of the UK, so that one of the most dynamic markets on a global scale finally finds a balance between effective regulation and freedom?
The statement was made at a time when the UK Government has been desperately trying to find a way to regulate the digital gambling market in a more efficient way and guarantee that local customers are well-protected against possible gambling-related harm. Considering the fact that the largest tech companies have been literally incapable of self-regulation, the Government’s and regulatory authorities’ efforts to protect local customers from possible negative consequences of gambling is quite understandable.
White Paper of Digital Harms Raises Public Concern for Digitalisation and Online Platforms
At the time when the White Paper of digital harms was officially unveiled, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, commented that in his opinion this was a vital first step towards the inception of stricter regulation for the broader digital sector.
The truth is that public concern related to digitalisation and online platforms has been piling up for some time. Even the largest proponents of digitalisation and its huge benefits have started to acknowledge that certain changes are on their way. Dr Alan Smith further noted that the constantly rising influence of the iGaming sector, including the harm associated with the flourishing online gambling market, hints about an existing problem that needs to be solved.
As explained by the Bishop of St Albans, the White Paper has come as a wake-up call not only for the British authorities but also to the entire society and has shown the necessity for assurance that the online sector serves the common good and guarantees that the most vulnerable members of society would be protected against any possible harm.
Immediate Measures Needed in the UK Online Gambling Sector to Protect Vulnerable Customers
As Casino Guardian has previously reported, the Bishop of St Albans has been among the most eager anti-gambling campaigners in the UK. He has been calling the competent authorities and regulatory bodies to make sure that adequate protection for people who suffer from gambling addiction would be provided.
Dr Alan Smith had shared hopes that the gambling industry would take the path to self-regulation, but online gambling operators turned out to be primarily focused on deriving revenue in any way possible no matter the consequences. As explained by him, much of the problem remains in the fact that the online sector remains vastly unregulated, especially when gambling is involved. For the time being, online gamblers are able to place bets both day and night, with credit card payments still available.
Lately, more and more children get involved with online gaming and gambling operations. Research of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has revealed that about 55,000 children are categorised as problem gamblers, while a further 70,000 are at risk of developing a gambling addiction. What is even more concerning, is the fact that gambling companies are openly targeting underage individuals in their marketing campaigns. At the beginning of the month, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) revealed that children as young as six had been targeted by gambling operators through adverts on TV, social media and children’s websites. The ASA found over 150 incidents of gambling ads on 11 children’s websites that occurred only in a fortnight.
The Authority further found that eight out of ten children were able to remember gambling adverts aired on TV, especially at the time of live football matches.
Now, the UK Government’s decision to impose a stricter measure on the digital sector, and more specifically on the online gambling sector, has highlighted even more the necessity of proper regulation in order for the online world to become a safe place for everyone. The Bishop of St Albans, however, believes this could only happen in case that the competent authorities start from offshore jurisdictions.
New Rules Would Make the UK Online Sector “the Safest One” Globally, Culture Secretary Says
As mentioned above, a White Paper aimed at seeing the duty of care enforcement by a new independent regulatory body was officially unveiled on Ap[ril 8th by the Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright and the Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
According to Mr Wright, the reforms were the best way to guarantee clear, concrete responsibilities for setting limits on harmful content or online activities. The new independent regulator is set to be entitled with powers to impose monetary fines on companies for breaching online rules. In addition, they will be able to ban certain platforms from Internet searches and even block their access to users in the UK.
In addition, the regulatory body that is aimed to be established would also be able to enforce certain age limits to suspend individuals under 13 years of age form some websites, and to ban algorithms which provide users with “extreme and unreliable” content.
Of course, operators do not have to wait for actual measures to be taken by the country’s authorities and could help by taking down harmful content from their websites in order to make sure that under-13s would not have access to their products.
The changes will include online gambling operators, too, as they are part of the digital market. As explained by Mr Wright, the authorities would no longer wait for such companies to act voluntarily to tackle gaming- and gambling-related harm. According to him, the changes would make the UK online market the safest one on a global scale.