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Social media companies will face huge fines if they fail to live up to their “duty of care” to internet users.

The UK government is taking a hard line when it comes to online safety, moving to establish what it says is the world’s first independent regulator to keep social media companies in check.

Companies that fail to live up to requirements will face huge fines, and senior directors who are proven to have been negligent will be held personally liable. They may also find access to their sites blocked.

The new measures, designed to make the internet a safer place, were announced jointly by the Home Office and Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The introduction of the regulator is the central recommendation of a highly anticipated government white paper, titled Online Harms, published early Monday in the UK.

The regulator will be tasked with ensuring social media companies are tackling a range of online problems, including:

  • Inciting violence and spreading violent content (including terrorist content)
  • Encouraging self-harm or suicide
  • The spread of disinformation and fake news
  • Cyberbullying
  • Children accessing inappropriate material
  • Child exploitation and abuse content
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As well as applying to the major social networks, such as FacebookYouTube and Twitter, the requirements will also have to be met by file-hosting sites, online forums, messaging services and search engines.

“For too long these companies have not done enough to protect users, especially children and young people, from harmful content,” said Prime Minister Theresa May in a statement. “We have listened to campaigners and parents, and are putting a legal duty of care on internet companies to keep people safe.”

Google and Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Websites to be fined or blocked for ‘online harms’ under new proposals

Internet sites could be fined or blocked if they fail to tackle “online harms” such as terrorist propaganda and child abuse, under new government plans.

The proposals, which include an independent watchdog and a code of practice that tech companies would have to follow, could see the UK introduce “world first” internet safety laws designed to make the country the safest place on the globe to be online.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said “we cannot ignore the crimes being committed on social networks,” at the launch of a Government white paper on online harms.

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In a speech on Monday afternoon, the home secretary issued a stark warning to online enterprises: “I warned you and you did not do enough. So it’s no longer a matter of choice. It’s time for you to protect the users and give them the protection they deserve, and I will accept nothing else.”

Mark Zuckerberg warned by Culture Secretary that Facebook will face legal crackdown over self-harm posts

Jeremy Wright told Mark Zuckerberg that Britain has ‘reached a turning point’ and that adding new laws is the only way to beat self-harm content

THE Culture Secretary told Mark Zuckerberg to his face that the UK government would become the first in the world to introduce a legal crackdown on Facebook’s harmful content.

Writing in today’s Sun, Jeremy Wright explains how he told Mr Zuckerberg at a meeting at Facebook’s officers in San Francisco in February that Britain had “reached a turning point” over its failure to act.



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