For the Conservatives, the internet has long been an area of concern. The unfettered, unchallenged, ‘Wild West’ culture present online is an alien world to many of the ageing Conservative Party. Since the digital world has crossed over into the economic and political mainstream, they have sought to control what happens online.


Prior to the 2017 General Election, they wrote in their election manifesto,

Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet. We disagree’.

It was a statement of intent from a party whose domination of news and media has been challenged by digital campaigning and online alternative media.

‘At a time when the internet is changing the way people obtain their news, we also need to take steps to protect the reliability and objectivity of information that is essential to our democracy and a free and independent press. We will ensure content creators are appropriately rewarded for the content they make available online. We will be consistent in our approach to regulation of online and offline media’.

Their desire to curb freedom of speech online and de-platform dissenting and ‘unqualified’ voices has been present for a number of years. Following the Parsons Green bombing in London, there were renewed calls for censorship of certain information online — such as hate speech, bomb building guides, and extremist websites.

Now, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal, they have once again called for further regulation of what happens in the digital world.

Matt Hancock, Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport wrote an op-ed in the London Evening Standard in which he declared that:

‘There comes a time when the pendulum swings. When the adolescents who moved fast and broke things grow up. When the rights and responsibilities that govern our offline world need to be brought to bear’.

He called out companies for abusing the data they collect on each and every one of us and claimed that Mark Zuckerberg was now going to bring Facebook under compliance of the ICO and the new GDPR regulations, as well as complying with ICO investigations into abuse of personal data. All this despite refusing to appear before UK Parliament (after appearing before the US Senate and the European Parliament).

He was particularly critical of the way in which social media firms profit off of our data with little to no scrutiny.

Whilst most of what they have laid out to date are simply vague platitudes about controlling the digital world and making it a safe space for consumers and businesses, they have yet to formulate concrete plans. The Data Protection Bill set to come into law (that with ratifying the GDPR), takes some steps towards creating a larger regulatory framework online, but falls somewhat short of their ambition to ‘make sure the UK is the safest place in the world to be online and the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business’.

In order to go further, they need to understand the vast scope of the internet and the monstrous amount of resources that would be required to police, censor, and regulate internet content. For now their work on personal data protection is a good start, but until they understand the scope of their ambition, it will be difficult for them to move much further.

By Josh Hamilton

Editor-in-Chief at www.thejist.co.uk