Social media firms face fines as part of crackdown on harmful content

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Offline David Cox

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Social media companies will be legally required to protect users, with bosses potentially held personally liable if they do not comply, under new government plans.

The proposed measures form part of a government plan to make the UK one of the safest places in the world to be online.

Charities and campaigners have been calling for greater regulation, following concerns over the growth of violent content, encouraging suicide, disinformation and the exposure of children to cyber bullying and other inappropriate material.

Those two groups have welcomed the plans, although a trade body has warned they may be too broad in scope to be effective.

The proposals on online harms, drawn up by the Home Office and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, say a regulator will be appointed to ensure companies meet their responsibilities.
These will be laid out in a new mandatory duty of care, which will require firms to take more responsibility for the safety of users and be more proactive in tackling the harm caused on their platforms.

The regulator - either a new body or an existing one like Ofcom - will have the ability to hit companies with "substantial" fines, block access to their sites and "potentially impose liability on individual member of senior management".

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