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Regulating the Internet in the Interests of Children: Emerging European and International Approaches

Sonia Livingstone

Introduction1

Online privacy, child safety, free speech and anonymity are on a collision course. (Szoka and Thierer 2009: 1)

Governments around the world are actively promoting Internet infrastructure, diffusion, and use in the workplace, schools, communities, and households. There is growing consensus that if this is to serve the interests of the public, including – my concern here – children and young people, policy-makers must determine how best to facilitate online opportunities while also reducing or managing the associated risks. Although there remain difficulties in identifying just what opportunities and risks the Internet might afford, many initiatives are underway nationally and internationally to establish a regulatory regime for the online environment, partially though not wholly paralleling the regulation of the offline environment. Drawing mainly on an account of emerging governance practices in the United Kingdom (UK) and continental Europe, though noting the strong influence on these of United States (US) industry, regulator, and child welfare advocacy, I ask how competing interests can be, and are being, managed in practice. My aim is to capture recent debates and practice regarding the protection and empowerment of children online, although my broader rationale in favor of (careful and proportionate) regulation may apply to other “vulnerable” ...

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