Research Seminar - Professor Lorna Woods, University of Essex
Title: Social Media Regulation: A Proposal
Abstract: Social media platforms despite their comparatively recent introduction are widely used in the UK. Increasingly concerns have arisen about the types of content found on social media platforms, behaviours facilitated by them and the (negative) impact of their use. Discussions about approaches to regulation prior to 2018 focussed on content available on social media and the question of who is responsible for that content. The focus on content leads to a number of difficulties: that of scale; the publisher/conduit dichotomy (and the immunity of the latter); and the exclusion of issues relating to system/service design (notably persuasive design techniques). Against this background, an applied law research project funded by Carnegie UK Trust, proposed a different approach based on a reframing of the question. Drawing on existing work on the relationship between law and software, existing regulatory frameworks addressing the safety of physical space, as well as the ‘by design’ approach, the Carnegie project suggested the imposition of a statutory duty of care on the providers of social media platforms in relation to the safety features of the services they provided. By focussing on the underlying systems/platforms for social media the Carnegie attempts to avoid the difficulties of the first two issues and include the third, which is excluded in analyses based only on content, within its ambit.