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UK watchdog Ofcom is to be given new powers to force social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to take more stringent action over harmful content on their platforms.
Tech firms will be required to follow a legal ‘duty of care’ to their users, ensuring that harmful content is removed from social media platforms, and that tech companies take more action over issues such as cyberbullying and self-harm.
The announcement comes as the government publishes its initial response to the public consultation on the Online Harms White Paper.
Ofcom currently regulates the media and television industry, but has so far not been responsible for internet safety. It is currently unclear what penalties Ofcom will be able to inflict on social media companies that do not comply with the rules, but it is likely that tech companies will face fines if they do not protect users from harmful content.
The announcement comes following the government’s first response to the Online Harms consultation it carried out in the UK in 2019, which received 2,500 replies. A full Government response is expected in the Spring.
Children’s charity NSPCC has welcomed the announcement, saying, “Too many times social media companies have said: ‘We don’t like the idea of children being abused on our sites, we’ll do something, leave it to us,’
Thirteen self-regulatory attempts to keep children safe online have failed.
Statutory regulation is essential.”
Sources: bbc.co.uk, 12 February 2020, ‘Regulator Ofcom to have more powers over UK social media’. Ft.com, 12 February 2020, ‘Ofcom to take big-picture approach to policing internet’.