back to article Brit Lords start peer-to-peer wrangling over regulating the internet

As the political handwringing about how to deal with the pesky internet reaches new heights, the House of Lords has launched an inquiry into the best way to regulate the web. The probe, announced today by the Communications Committee, will ask how governments should deal with the problems thrown up by the internet and the …

  1. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Do they all think they can command the tide?

    Anything they manage to decide upon will not be 'regulating the internet', it'll be regulating UK citizens access to the internet, most likely.

    Facebook has already shown it's disdain...

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Do they all think they can command the tide?

      If you read beyond the headline, they're not prejudging that question. Rather they appear to be asking sensible questions, not least that of whether and in what sense the 'net can be regulated. It might even be worth submitting comments, if you can get past the kneejerk reaction.

      Once they've taken evidence, they might even come up with proposals that look better than the status quo. For example, could the Great Firewall (aka IWF) be made more accountable? To what extent does GDPR look fit for purpose, and can lessons be learned from abusers ranging from oldfashioned spammers to Cambridge Analytica? Can we flesh out a policy on encryption that'll stamp on any proposals to damage it?

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: Do they all think they can command the tide?

        If you read beyond the headline, they're not prejudging that question. Rather they appear to be asking sensible questions, not least that of whether and in what sense the 'net can be regulated. It might even be worth submitting comments, if you can get past the kneejerk reaction.

        In that case may I humbly suggest that they begin witht he question "Why do we want to regulate the internet?" and very quickly follow that up with answers to the question "What are our preferred outcomes in terms of any regulation we're seeking to apply?"

        It might help frame the debate rather than having the usual trench warfare.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    regulation = restriction rather than making corporations play nice with our data. The fact they mention the Internets influence on children tells us all we need to know about their plans. All this by a bunch of unelected nobs who mostly got their positions by donations to governments of one kind or another.

    1. Keef

      "All this by a bunch of unelected nobs who mostly got their positions by donations to governments of one kind or another."

      Without getting in to the details of that statement I for one am happy we have the upper house to at least try and reign in the worst excesses of the lower house and give a measure of balance.

      Just my opinion on the upper house, I kind of agree the Guvmnt want to restrict us plebs as much as they can.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I agree sometime they do good but it's very rare and even then they can and are overruled by the lower house so I'm not sure why we have them. In an ideal world we would have an elected upper house or one that was selected of people who have contributed to society in general or are specialist in various fields.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "I agree sometime they do good but it's very rare and even then they can and are overruled by the lower house so I'm not sure why we have them"

          The Commons can only force through financial bills. That is why the PM is often looking for ways to avoid the Lord's veto by tacking things onto financial bills - or using Henry VIII "secondary legislation" measures.

          There is the nuclear option of creating enough new Lords to change the vote majority - but any sane PM knows not to do that.

          Even the most fervent party supporter sent to the Lords can finally show a liberal spine when no longer touting for promotions. The Lords has many people whose day job career was not political. Whereas MPs are increasingly people who have spent all their working lives in career political roles.

          1. Julian Bradfield

            The Commons can force through (almost) any bill against the Lords, and have been able to do that since 1911. Before that, there was a convention that the Lords didn't interfere with finance bills.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "In an ideal world we would have an elected upper house or one that was selected of people who have contributed to society in general or are specialist in various fields."

          I'll settle for the latter.

          In the past I've argued that whoever you vote for you still get a politician. Trump has shown us that not only is that not necessarily true but that when it isn't the result can be even worse.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            In an ideal world, we would have real democracy, rather than the current Parliamentary dictatorship.

            Not to mention secret law...

      2. Suricou Raven

        I actually like that aspect of the American system. They use a bicameral system too, but Senators serve six year terms rather than the two-year term of a house member. It means that while the House membership reacts quickly to the changing views of the electorate*, the senate is able to make decisions without having to constantly worry about the public reaction and the prospects of their next election - they can more easily oppose a popular but poorly-written bill without fear that they will be savaged in the media.

        I also think the US political culture is horribly broken right now, but that's not because of the electoral processes of their legislature. That's one of the things they got somewhat right. It's inspired by the English parliament, but with a few improvements.

        Bicameral legislatures seem a good idea, but the Lords is really anti-democratic - they do not represent the people, at all. They don't even pretend to. I can think of a few ways to do it better, mostly involving systems where candidates are appointed by the Commons but require a public vote to determine which candidate actually gets the position.

        *In theory, anyway. In practice almost everyone votes for the -R or -D after the name, and doesn't care about the candidate, so reelection rates are very high.

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          > In practice almost everyone votes for the -R or -D after the name

          This is even driven by law in states such as Florida, where if you register as (for example) Democrat, then you can only vote for Democrat candidates.

          I personally don't see how this is legal, but this place is a steaming shithole anyway.

          1. Alphebatical
            WTF?

            Are you sure you're not thinking of the primaries? Because picking a candidate from party members is sort of the point.

          2. David Beck

            Applies to primaries only. Does that explain it enough?

      3. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Without getting in to the details of that statement I for one am happy we have the upper house to at least try and reign in the worst excesses

        We do need an upper house, the commons need watching, especially of late, but currently, as they are unelected, they can be overruled by the commons.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      All this by a bunch of unelected nobs who mostly got their positions by donations to governments of one kind or another.

      Most of them are political hacks that didn't get re-elected so they got bumped up to the HoL.

      Now, if the HoL went back to what it was - hereditary Lords, we might get an independent house that is not beholden to any political party. As it stands at the moment all we have is another expensive committee for the HoC which defeats the object of having the upper house.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "[...] , we might get an independent house that is not beholden to any political party."

        Such people sometimes choose to sit as "cross benchers". They are no longer seeking promotions - and their appointment can't be revoked by the party that put them in the Lords. They can be independent of the party.

    3. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      "All this by a bunch of unelected nobs who mostly got their positions by donations to governments of one kind or another."

      90(?) members of the upper chamber are elected by their peers, the hereditary members.

  3. RyszrdG

    Oh no ...

    The governments 'useful idiots' at it again - all for £300 a day and a nice cosy place to snooze.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Oh no ...

      And how is that different from the house of commons?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh no ...

      There are more idiots in the lower house...

  4. Suricou Raven

    Who voted for them again? Oh, right....

    I guess we are stuck with them because any reform of the House of Lords must itsself be approved by the Lords within. Not that the Commons are that much better with their susceptibility to the Mail-driven moral panics and demands that Something Must Be Done.

    Still, not to worry too much. No matter what oppression they come up with, I am confident in the power of ten million technologically-inclined internet users to come up with a workaround.

    1. Tom 64
      Pint

      But think of the children!

      ... That argument is getting as tired as an ancient, bald pirelli already.

  5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Inside Track

    Here's a Peer who knows a thing or two about the subject - is she on the panel? And don't forget to round up the other usual suspects

    https://hansard.parliament.uk/search/MemberContributions?memberId=4275&type=Spoken

    Social Media News 11 Jan 2018

    "My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Kidron for this debate. We joined the House together and I remember clearly her saying to me, “Oh, I really do not know anything about technology”. That is clearly untrue and I learn from my noble friend all the time. If the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, is a hypocrite, I am afraid that I am Judas, as I must confess early on that I am a board member of Twitter—I shall come back to that in a second."

    With apologies to Christians for putting up a quote that references "Judas", on this Good Friday.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Inside Track

      Here's a Peer who knows a thing or two about the subject - is she on the panel?

      Yes but are they the right things? I might be doing her a tremendous disservice but I suspect not.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Inside Track

        @Commswonk

        I might be doing her a tremendous disservice but I suspect not.

        You might say that. I couldn't possibly comment.

  6. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alert

    Internet: Regulation - 2013

    A blast from the past...

    "To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to promote the regulation of the internet, and if so how and by whom regulation should be carried out."

    Internet: Regulation. House of Lords. Hansard 29 October 2013

  7. Commswonk Silver badge

    Rather Irrelevant, Really.

    A number of points spring to mind.

    Given the global nature of the internet I'm afraid that no nation can effectively regulate how it operates, given that any nationally - devised Law or Regulation runs out of steam at that nation's border. There is often criticism of the US on El Reg for demonstrating its belief that its legal remit is global, so it would be indefensible to support any other government trying a similar trick.

    Facebook (to name but one) is barely answerable to the US government, and it certainly won't be answerable to the UK one; this has been nicely demonstrated by MZ deciding to send a minion to tell the HoC to sod off (which is what it will amount to) rather than doing the proper thing and coming himself. In the specific case of Facebook (although the same argument can be used with other "undesirables") the only real option would be to block its operation in the UK, and I cannot see any government wanting to go down that route for a number of reasons, not least the fact that it would put the UK on a par with (say) NK.

    The Consitutional position of the HoL is similarly irrelevant; although I have to admit to having no strong objections to its existence, it is essentially undemocratic, but in and of itself that fact does not preclude its coming up with good policies or policy suggestions. In this specific case it might well come to sensible conclusions that attract the support of many or even most in the HoC, but getting government support is something else entirely.

    Even then when it comes to "actual" policy making there is the inescapable disease of corporate lobbying to contend with. Almost by definition corporate lobbying takes place in the shadows unseen by the great unwashed (that includes me, I'm afraid to say) so what emerges at the end of any policy - making process can all too easily be a completely emasculated version of what was originally envisaged, leaving ordinary citizens every bit as vulnerable to being misled, or having their personal data abused as they were before any sort of policy was deemed necessary. No; I don't like it, but I don't think I am under any illusions about things changing for the better any time soon.

    Finally (for now anyway) even if the "internet" could be perfectly regulated in the UK (actually it's not the internet that needs any sort of regulation; it's people misusing it that's the problem) that would not prevent misuse taking place beyond the reach of any UK regulation, such as the alleged Russian interference in the US Presidential Election. The abuse could be "processed" elsewhere, but stopping the product of that abuse crossing the UK border would be another matter entirely, not least because the mindset would become one of "we have effectively stopped abuse of the internet in the UK" which in turn would create a misplaced confidence in the belief that as a result no abuse was creeping in (flooding in, more likely) from elsewhere.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Rather Irrelevant, Really.

      "Facebook (to name but one) is barely answerable to the US government"

      this may change. or not.

  8. The Nazz Silver badge

    Step 1

    Simple.

    Whenever a Company/Organisation acts outside of the law, make each and every board member be jointly liable for such actions. With stiff penalties attached including a mandatory minimum jail term.

    And no exceptions for HoL members or indeed any politician.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Step 1

      @ The Nazz:

      Simple.

      Whenever a Company/Organisation acts outside of the law, make each and every board member be jointly liable for such actions.

      To demonstrate its simplicity even further, please tell us exactly which UK laws Facebook, CA & other associated individuals may have broken over the US Presidential Election and / or the EU Referendum.

      I think I would venture "not quite that simple" after all.

      1. The Nazz Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Step 1

        re Comms

        Why restrict my proposal to the narrow matters of Facebook, CA et al and the US/UK elections/referendum? If you read my posts (only if you're exceptionally bored) you'll find that i have scant knowledge of this Facebook/CA palaver and personally don't see what any of the fuss is about, much less that any laws have been broken. My little understanding is that CA gained some Facebook data by dubious means, interacted with third parties for payment, to try sway some voters one way or the other. Think advertising, and it's dubious processes, and isn't that what the greater part of the internet has become?

        If the Russians interfered, so what? Clinton got what she deserved, the Leave voters won. And clearly won.

        Society would be much better off if a simple law was passed... That upon a Company/Organisation acting unlawfully, the Directors/Executives/Senior Management (and anyone directly involved) shall be held personally liable and upon successful prosecution will face jail time.

        Take Phorm for one example. Again, i don't know the details, but IF they did anything illegal, say bug peoples phones, intercept communications illegally, then the Directors involved serve jail time. Including the BT executives who colluded with them to do so. If any activity was illegal, obviously IANAL.

        Yes, passing such a law would not be simple, and is extremely unlikely to happen, because there are too many vested interests.

        If one were a surgeon, and one considred Facebook and the EU politicos like Juncker and Tusk, and it's fanbois like Blair and Clegg, as a cancer, how long would you allow it to fester away like it is?

  9. Tromos

    "...the effect Brexit will have on internet regulation"

    The inquiry should not waste any time on this when the answer should be blindingly obvious with about two seconds thought.

    EU internet regulations need not apply.

  10. David 45

    Education

    First things first. They (and I include the right honourable House Of Commons members also, here) should all be compelled to take a course that explains how the internet works. Then (and only then) they might just (and only just) be slightly qualified to discuss it

  11. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Witness #1

    Who better than Peer of the Realm Lord Sugar to give a master class in posting irresponsible content in the internet! (and he can take the opportunity to explain Godwin's law to his fellow Peers)

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-adolf-hitler-lord-sugar-labour-antisemitism-row-john-mcdonnell-a8282581.html

    John Mann, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against antisemitism, said: "The use of Hitler/ Nazi comparators is demeaning, unwarranted and dangerous. You damage the fight against anti Semitism with this Lord-Sugar. Withdraw this and apologise please."

  12. Anonymous Noel Coward
    Boffin

    Fake News?

    I find it hard to take people who bitch about fake news seriously when the celebrate an entire day which revolves around it every year...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    is it 1995?`

    "Although the internet “opens up new opportunities”, the committee said, it also “presents challenges” "

    new opportunities and challenges, I have been hearing those specific words since i was in school and i am nearly 40 now!

  14. Yes Me Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Lords start peer-to-peer wrangling

    The probe, announced today by the Communications Committee, will ask how governments should deal with the problems thrown up by the internet and the services that run on it.
    Not a bad response time, only about 23 years since Internet content became an issue.

  15. gymychoo

    Really

    Good luck with all that.

  16. Dave 15

    fake news...

    Or in other words something that disagrees with the lies the BBC put out for the government.

    Weapons of mass destruction, launched in 15 minutes, capable of hitting the UK.... Involvement in trying to influence our politics... all sorts of garbage produced with no evidence at all to back it up ... produced by government and the BBC.

    They already censor a whole pile of sites for 'kiddie porn' and 'terrorism' - without us having a clue which they block. Now they are looking to block even more. China does it, Russia does it, North Korea as well... but we are told they are no good totalitarian states... does it mean when we do the same we are also a no good totalitarian state... only if you like facts

  17. Tom 7 Silver badge

    pee-er to pee-er shirley

    They wear the ermine cloaks to cover their nappies.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    simples...

    ... make the directors/ investors criminally liable for the bad behavior of their companies! :)

    Bad behavior, go to jail.

    Bad behavior in investment, shouldn't have invested... or invested ethically.

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