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June 15, 2020
The immersive and addictive technologies inquiry investigated how games companies operate across a range of social media platforms and other technologies. The Committee’s report called upon games companies to “accept responsibility for addictive gaming disorders”, as well as, “protect their players from potential harms due to excessive play-time and spending”. The report also said that games companies, together with social media companies, should introduce more effective age verification tools.
In particular, the report called for:
- an industry levy to support independent research on the long-term effects of gaming: in response, the Government said that it agreed with the Committee that there were a number of areas where new or additional research would be helpful. It will lead a programme of work to set a framework supporting future independent video games research beneficial for the games industry, for consumers and for interested bodies, and to inform the Government’s ongoing development of evidence-based policy. However, the Government said that it was not minded at this point to impose a levy on the games industry to pay for new research as it believes it would be likely to disproportionately impact the SMEs and microbusinesses that comprise the vast majority of games businesses in the UK. However, a wide range of funding approaches will be considered as part of this work;
- the regulation of “loot boxes” under the Gambling Act and their sale to children to be banned: in response, the Government said that it will be launching a call for evidence on loot boxes. This will examine, for example, the size and variation of the market, the design of mechanisms, the context in terms of other types of in-game spending, the impact on consumers and particularly young people including links to problem gambling, and the effectiveness of the current statutory and voluntary regulation. In addition to a written call for evidence, the Government envisages also holding a series of roundtables to discuss issues and solutions in detail, including the most effective approaches to protect users from any harms identified. Full details of the call for evidence and how to respond will be announced in due course. The results from the call for evidence will be considered alongside the Government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005. The Government said that it stands ready to take action should the outcomes of the call for evidence support taking a new approach to ensure users, and particularly young people, are protected;
- the Video Recordings Act 1984 to be amended to ensure that online games are covered by the same enforceable age restrictions as games sold on disks: in response, the Government said that it wants to see the age ratings from physical copies of games that consumers recognise and trust applied to all online video games;
- the protection of players from potential harms: in response, the Government pointed to its initial response to the consultation on its Online Harms White Paper, which was published 12 February 2020, announcing that the Government is minded to appoint Ofcom as the new online harms regulator and setting out how it will ensure that legislation is proportionate and protects freedom of speech. The response also stated that the duty of care will provide a higher level of protection for children. Under the proposals the Government expects companies to use a proportionate range of tools, including age assurance, and age verification technologies, to prevent children from accessing age-inappropriate content, and to protect them from other harms. A full response with further policy details will be released later in 2020;
- DCMS to lay out how a similar framework to the duty of care practices enshrined and enforced by the governing bodies of other sports can best be applied within esports: in response, the Government said that it will bring forward plans for a ministerial roundtable with a range of esports stakeholders to discuss the opportunities and barriers to market-driven growth in the UK and how industry is working collectively, or can work in future, to encourage best practice in areas such as player well-being and esports integrity; and
- The Government to include action against deepfakes as part of the duty of care on social media companies planned in the Online Harms White Paper: in response, the Government said that it recognises the potential challenges artificial intelligence and digitally manipulated content, including “deepfakes”, may pose. The technology used to manipulate audio and video content is becoming more sophisticated and it is considering these issues carefully as part of efforts to tackle online manipulation and disinformation. It is also actively engaging with international partners, industry and civil society to tackle these threats. The UK will be keeping a close eye on how the technology develops, including the opportunities it presents for the media and creative industries.
To read the Government response in full, click here.