Ofcom to be handed role of policing United Kingdom social media platforms

Ofcom to become UK Internet regulator

For Labour, Tracy Brabin, Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said that it was shameful that almost a year after the White Paper, three years after its promise to legislate on online harms, and more than a decade after the first tragic social media suicides were reported, all the Government has to show is an 'initial consultation response.' She said: "Today's proposals are long overdue, and nothing short of legislation will reassure families that their loved ones are safe online".

While child protection charities have welcomed the new regulation plan as a sign that the Government is willing to stand up to Silicon Valley, the NSPCC is leading calls for Ofcom to now be given powers to proactively "lift up on the bonnet" on websites and hold company directors criminally accountable for putting children at risk. However, the likes of Facebook and Twitter still largely advocate self-regulation, with the belief that they can more quickly adapt their systems to suit users' needs.

When considering the online harms which will be prohibited, the Response differentiates between illegal content and content that is not illegal but has "the potential to cause harm", with examples being given of "online bullying, intimidation in public life, or self-harm and suicide imagery".

Half the United Kingdom public have seen hateful content online in the past year, according to the report.

Keeping people safe was something Facebook took extremely seriously, she said, and in recent years the company had tripled the number of people working on the issue to 35,000 and was using artificial intelligence to find and remove harmful content.

"New rules are needed so that we have a more common approach across platforms and private companies aren't making so many important decisions alone", said Rebecca Stimson, Facebook's head of United Kingdom public policy.

Indeed, the IA also warned that the measures could have serious consequences for online freedom of expression.


She added the measures would only apply to websites that allow sharing of user-generated content - for example, through comments, forums or videos - meaning fewer than 5% of all United Kingdom businesses will be affected.

But under an expanded role to be announced by Nicky Morgan, the culture secretary, the regulator will be given additional, as yet unspecified powers to act over unacceptable content.

"We have an incredible opportunity to lead the world in building a thriving digital economy", Morgan said in a written response to a set of proposals published by the government last April. It will be up to Ofcom to monitor new and emerging online dangers and take appropriate enforcement action.

The UK government has announced plans to grant the country's broadcasting authority, Ofcom, broad new powers in regulating the spread of harmful content across social media platforms. This decision to extend the remit of an existing regulator has been made despite the majority of consultation responses expressing the view that a new body should be appointed.

Lord Burns has therefore agreed to step down to enable a new Chair to be in place by the end of this year.

Sky News reports that there has been "no confirmation of what punishments or fines the bolstered regulator will be able to hand out". "That means more than a hefty fine - it means having the clout to disrupt the activities of businesses that fail to comply, and ultimately, the threat of a prison sentence for breaking the law", mentioned Knight.

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