Regulation of online platforms



Regulation of online platforms -
What can we learn from 150 years of telecoms regulation?


Dr Steve Unger


How to address competition concerns associated with online platforms has become a pressing policy question around the world. And as if that wasn't enough, a variety of other issues are also in play, from protecting users against harmful content, to the ethical application of artificial intelligence. The cumulative effect is striking - a sector which just a few years ago was admired for its innovation is now seen by many as a source of harm, and an inevitable target of regulation.

Regulation of online platforms is clearly on its way. However, it is important that a measured approach is taken to designing this new regulatory framework. This will need to address the real concerns which have been identified, but at the same time respect the level of innovation driven by online platforms, and the extent to which this has transformed peoples' lives for the better. In this article Steve Unger draws on his extensive experience as a telecoms regulator to establish some general principles for a new regulatory framework. He then considers whether some of the specific solutions historically used by telecoms regulators are relevant to online platforms.

Published: 01 October 2019


  • About the author

    Dr Steve Unger, Affiliated Researcher

    Steve Unger was until recently a Board member of Ofcom, the UK regulator responsible for digital communications. He had various responsibilities, including setting regulatory strategy for the UK, representing the UK in international negotiations, and leading Ofcom's technology programme. He spent a brief period as ...   Learn more

    Steve Unger