Government launches long-awaited online harms legislation

The UK government will today launch its highly anticipated online harms legislation to protect internet users.

It’s been reported that social media companies could be fined up to £18 million for failing to protect users as part of the new rules.

Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said that the long-awaited legislation will say that platforms have a responsibility to “protect users from a range of harms, from terrorism to self-harm content.”

The new regulations will give Ofcom, which was appointed online harms regulator earlier this year, “tough new enforcement powers.”

The legislation, which will be set out in the House of Commons later this afternoon, will say that tech firms have a legal duty of care to users.

“We’re really pleased to take on this new role, which will build on our experience as a media regulator,” said Melanie Dawes, Ofcom chief executive. “Being online brings huge benefits, but four in five people have concerns about it.

“That shows the need for sensible, balanced rules that protect users from serious harm, but also recognise the great things about online, including free expression. We’re gearing up for the task by acquiring new technology and data skills, and we’ll work with Parliament as it finalises the plans.”

Stephen Kelly, Chair of Tech Nation, comments on the government’s final decisions on new laws to make the UK a safer place to be online: “Given our leadership in the application of ethics and integrity in IT, it should be no surprise that the UK is moving decisively to tackle online harms, one of the biggest and most complex digital challenges of our time. Equally, it offers the UK the opportunity to lead a new category of tech, such as "safetech", building on our heritage of regtech and compliance, which already assure global markets and economies."

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