Online Safety Bill will give Ofcom power to fine BigTech

New internet laws will give Ofcom the power to fine technology companies up to £18 million, or ten per cent of annual turnover, if they fail to deliver a duty of care.

The regulator will also be able to block access to sites.

The government said that the new Online Safety Bill will help safeguard young people and “clamp down on racist abuse online.”

The draft bill comes just weeks after sports stars and governing bodies boycotted social media to protest the racist online abuse of footballers.

Under the new regulation, social media sites, websites, apps and other services hosting user-generated content or allowing people to talk to others online, must remove and limit the spread of illegal and harmful content such as child sexual abuse, terrorist material, and suicide content.

The legislation will include new protections to “strengthen people’s rights to express themselves freely online, while protecting journalism and democratic political debate.”

Further provisions to tackle prolific online scams such as romance fraud, which have seen people manipulated into sending money to fake identities on dating apps, will also be included in the bill.

A new criminal offence for senior managers has been included as a deferred power in the draft bill. This could be introduced at a later date if tech firms don’t step up their efforts to improve safety.

“Today the UK shows global leadership with our groundbreaking laws to usher in a new age of accountability for tech and bring fairness and accountability to the online world,” said digital secretary, Oliver Dowden. “We will protect children on the internet, crack down on racist abuse on social media and through new measures to safeguard our liberties, create a truly democratic digital age.”

Home secretary Priti Patel said that the new legislation will force tech companies to report online child abuse on their platforms, giving law enforcement agencies the “evidence they need to bring these offenders to justice.”

“Ruthless criminals who defraud millions of people and sick individuals who exploit the most vulnerable in our society cannot be allowed to operate unimpeded, and we are unapologetic in going after them,” said Patel. “It’s time for tech companies to be held to account and to protect the British people from harm. If they fail to do so, they will face penalties.”

The draft Bill will be scrutinised by a joint committee of MPs before a final version is formally introduced to Parliament.

    Share Story:

Recent Stories