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Internet companies should have to get permission to do ...anything?

Posted by Public Affairs Team on Friday, August 12th, 2016 at 16:51

John Carr, in his evidence to the Lords Communications Committee inquiry on Children and the Internet:

Facebook’s pioneering slogan—the idea on which the company was founded—was “Move Fast and Break Things”. It ties in with another idea, which is central to the whole idea of how the internet industry operates, which is permissionless innovation. The whole thing is about having a great idea, getting it out there and seeing how it goes. If we find out there is something wrong with it later, it is based on this idea that it is better to apologise than to ask permission in the first place. You get the product out there, see how it goes, and, if something goes wrong with it, you tweak it and change it if and when you have to.

I think that is wrong. I think we should try to establish, either through law or culturally, that any and every company has a duty of care to children if it brings out a new product or a new service, just as it does in the physical world. If you bring out a new iron, a new toaster, a new motor car or a new anything, there is a whole set of hoops that you have to go through to prove that it is fit and proper to be put in the marketplace in which you are about to put it. That does not apply in internet space. It should; there is no reason why it could not. By the way, Facebook has now abandoned, officially at any rate, that slogan of “Move Fast and Break Things”, but the philosophy is still deeply embedded in the way internet businesses think. That idea of establishing a duty of care would be a very big step.

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