Tech companies that don’t protect users could be fined £18bn

Technology firms that fail to protect their users could be fined up to £18 billion under the government’s upcoming Online Safety Bill, according to the culture secretary.

“Frankly, we will be bringing forward legislation which will introduce sanctions, including some pretty steep fines – 10 per cent of global annual turnover – which could be as much as £18 billion, so there will be some considerable sanctions within the Bill, and he is absolutely right,” said Nadine Dorries, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, in the House of Commons, as reported by major newspapers. “You know, we shouldn’t be having to do this; the moral responsibility for those organisations is to provide the protections that young people require.

“They could be doing what they need to do right now, they didn’t need the Bill. They could remove those harmful algorithms right now.”

The comments came in response to Conservative MP Saqib Bhatti, who said that he wrote to five major social media companies asking them to “recognise their moral duty” to protect users and heard back from only three, according to the reports.

“It is good that the Online Safety Bill will include meaningful financial sanctions, but it is still key that fraudulent paid-for advertising is covered so tech firms know that they will face tough penalties if they take money from fraudsters exploiting their platforms to lure in victims,” said Which?’s director of policy and advocacy in response to the culture secretary’s comments. “There is now overwhelming consensus that paid-for adverts that lead to scams should be included in the Online Safety Bill with regulators, businesses, consumer groups, City of London Police, the Governor of the Bank of England and MPs and Peers from across both Houses highlighting the need for urgent action. It is vital that the government acts now.”

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