The UK government Thursday introduced a revised version of the draft Online Safety Bill before the House of Commons, with stricter sanctions to hold tech giants accountable and criminalising acts such as cyberflashing to usher in an era of online safety.
The bill requires social media platforms, search engines and other apps and websites to protect children from harmful content through age verifications, clamp down on paid-for scam adverts and minimise the risk of people encountering illegal content.
Because of the growing debate around balancing safety and freedom of speech online, the bill exempts news content from its purview and requires social media firms to protect journalism and democratic political debate on their platforms. Users also have the right to appeal against unfair take-downs of their posts by social media platforms.
The Minister of State for Security and Borders, Damian Hinds, said :
Our utmost priority is to protect children and ensure public safety. The trailblazing Online Safety Bill will ensure social media companies are finally held to account and are taking ownership of the massive effect they have on all of our lives. Fraudsters will have fewer places to hide and abusers will be ardently pursued to feel the full force of the law.
The country’s communications regulator, Ofcom, will oversee the implementation of the new law with the power to fine violating companies up to 10 percent of their annual global turnover. Executives of companies that fail to comply with Ofcom’s information requests may face prosecution or jail time within two months of the bill becoming law. The companies’ senior managers will also be criminally liable for destroying evidence, failing to attend or provide false information in interviews with Ofcom and obstructing Ofcom when it enters company offices.