UK announces plan to fine firms for harmful online content

The British government will now be giving regulators the power to fine social media companies for harmful material on their platforms.

This means that firms that allow harmful material to flourish or don’t remove it quickly could be sanctioned.

The plans were announced Wednesday and would give the United Kingdom’s telecommunications watchdog, Ofcom, power to enforce a “duty of care” on companies such as Facebook and Twitter “to protect users from harmful and illegal terrorist and child abuse content.”

The government said it was “minded” to make the changes, but new legislation will be needed for it to take effect.

It said officials were working “at pace” to draft a new law.

Ofcom will hold companies to account if they don’t deal with harmful material, and platforms will have to remove “illegal content” quickly and “minimise the risk of it appearing.”

In order to safeguard freedom of expression, the rules won’t ban people from accessing or posting offensive but legal content, though the government indicated it would let internet companies decide what material is tolerated.

Online companies “will be required to explicitly state what content and behaviour is acceptable on their sites in clear and accessible terms and conditions and enforce these effectively, consistently and transparently,” the government said.

Tech companies welcomed the regulations.