political issue especially in Europe,
where mass youth unemployment
and a rapidly ageing workforce means
IT skills are in short supply, especially
in Parliaments. Google- or Uber-spon-sored promises of untold riches from
autonomous vehicles fall on politicians’ deaf ears: robots do not vote.
This is a red flag to those advising governments as well as those legislating. 2
If platform regulation signals a desire to slow down the pace of innovation by government, what rational answer can be sold to government? The
first essential is to prevent platforms
becoming liable as publishers, by
whatever legitimate means necessary.
That may mean fines for failure to take
down fake content or revenge porn. It
may mean a user ombudsman as suggested in new proposed English legislation. Recruiting more internal content checkers at Facebook and Google
to remove content may be overdue.
Global platforms need to conform to
European rules on hate speech (for
instance Nazi content), a legal battle
lost by Yahoo! in the French Tribunal
de Grand Instance 17 years ago.b
Co-Regulation as a Hybrid Solution
What more can be done? Europe sets
the global standards for regulation of
content, notably in data protection
and hate speech. The decisive power
relationship in European law has
swung to Germany and France. Regulation will increase, and Anglo-American companies increasingly recognize that and are embracing a French
term: co-regulation. What that means
is diluting government control of the
Internet by ensuring a compromise
based on industry self-regulation, but
with oversight by users and by government regulators. 3 Examples include
global Top Level domain name oversight. Governments have sponsored
industry standards not only in Europe
but globally via hosting and supporting the World Wide Web Consortium
Co-regulation is the compromise
computer scientists must live with.
Totalitarian regimes want to use the
b Confirmed in Yahoo! Inc. v. La Ligue Contre Le
Racisme et L’antisemitisme. L’Union Des Etudi-
ants Juifs De France, 433 F.3d 1199 (9th Cir.
threat of terrorism and cyber-crime
to replace self-regulation with direct
and often draconian control. Co-reg-
ulation is the best alternative.
Areas for cooperation between law
and computer science can flourish in
co-regulatory institutions, because
the best of them engineer a delibera-
tive evidence-driven expert-friendly
process. 5 It can curb the worst excess-
es of both corporate and government
If lawyers and computer scientists cooperate to make these social
regulation processes work, it is the
best chance to prevent a much worse
system of direct government control
1. Brown, I. and Marsden, C. Regulating Code: Good
Governance and Better Regulation in the Information
Age. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2013.
2. Guadamuz A. and Marsden, C. Blockchains not Bitcoin:
Distributed Ledger Technology. Computers and Law 2,
3. Marsden, C. Internet Co-regulation: European Law,
Regulatory Governance and Legitimacy in Cyberspace.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U. K., 2011.
4. Marsden, C. Technology and the law. International
Encyclopedia of Digital Communication & Society
Wiley-Blackwell, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/9781118767771.
5. Marsden, C. et al. Deliverable 4.3: Final Report
on Regulation, Governance, and Standard, 2015.
European Internet Science Consortium; http://www.
6. Pollett, T.V., Roberts, S., and Dunbar, R.I.M. Use of
social network sites and instant messaging does not
lead to increased offline social network size, or to
emotionally closer relationships with offline network
members Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social
Networking 14 (2011), 253–258.
Chris Marsden ( email@example.com) is Professor of
Law at the University of Sussex, Brighton, U.K.
The argument in this column is further explored in the
final chapters of author’s recent book Network Neutrality:
From Policy to Law to Regulation. Manchester University
Copyright held by author.
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