UK unveils draft Online Safety Bill aimed at imposing sense of responsibility on social media companies

On Wednesday, in a significant development Britain said, it plans on unveil a new law which will fine social media companies up to 10% of their global turnover of 18 million pounds ($25 million), if they fail to remove online abuses such as racist hate crimes; the law will also see senior managers face criminal action.

The bill, named Online Safety Bill, seeks to strengthen the right to freedom of expression, and ensure democratic political debate and journalistic content is protected, said the government.

“It’s time for tech companies to be held to account and to protect the British people from harm. If they fail to do so, they will face penalties,” said interior minister Priti Patel.

Social media companies have been accused of doing very little to address online abuse; many institutions including soccer clubs and other sporting authorities have boycotted Facebook, the world’s biggest social media platform, to highlight this growing issue.

The bill aims to place of a sense of responsibility and duty on social media companies and websites in order to ensure that swift action is taken to remove illegal content, including harassments, hate crimes, and threats directed at individuals, essentially abuses which fall below the criminal threshold.

The bill will also require social media companies to limit, remove, and limit the spread of terrorist materials, suicide content and child sexual abuses, all of which need to be reported to authorities. Companies which fail to comply will face sizeable fine, said British regulator Ofcom.

“The draft Bill contains reserved powers for Ofcom to pursue criminal action against named senior managers whose companies do not comply with Ofcom’s requests for information,” said the government. “These will be introduced if tech companies fail to live up to their new responsibilities.”

The proposed bill also requires social media companies to safeguard freedom of expression, and reinstate material that have been unfairly removed.

It also forbid them from discriminating against a particular political point of view, and Ofcom will hold them to account for the arbitrary removal of journalistic content, said the government.

($1 = 0.7068 pounds)

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