The UK government on Thursday introduced wide-ranging proposals to improve online safety, outlining new measures to protect users including children from harmful content such as cyber-bullying.
The proposals in the Online Safety Bill, described by ministers as a “milestone,” include tightening up duty of care requirements on tech firms and penalties for breaches.
Failure to comply with legislation could see them face fines up to 10 percent of their annual global turnover, if the bill goes through parliament.
Tech bosses who fail to cooperate and comply would also run the risk of criminal prosecution and jail terms of up to two years, the government said.
Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said tech firms had been “left to mark their own homework” as the Internet developed, and “harm, abuse and criminal behaviour have run riot on their platforms.”
Failure to implement basic protections against online risks “sacrificing the wellbeing and innocence of countless generations of children to the power of unchecked algorithms,” she added.
Dorries promised that the proposals were “balanced and proportionate” and would not target freedom of expression, after concerns from rights campaigners.
News content will be “completely exempt” from regulation, and social media firms will be required to protect journalism and democratic political debate, she added.
Social media platforms, however, will be required to tackle “legal but harmful” content, such as exposure to self-harm, harassment and eating disorders.
The bill, first proposed in 2019, also aims to tackle online scams, including fake adverts, and mandate more robust age checks on websites publishing or hosting sensitive.
Ian Russell, whose 14-year-old daughter Molly killed herself in 2017 after viewing graphic self-harm and suicide material on Instagram, gave his support.
He said the Online Safety Bill was “another important step towards ending the damaging era of tech self-regulation” to protect users, especially children.
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