Online Safety Bill Proposed by United Kingdom promises Hefty Fines and Criminal Action over Online Abuse
In order to regulate online content and speech, the United Kingdom has published its draft Online Safety Bill – a new law that would monitor content in the social media. Ofcom – the new online regulator, would be able to fine social media companies up to 10% of turnover or GBP 18 million (roughly Rs. 187 crores) if they failed to take down online abuses such as racist hate crimes, while senior managers could also face criminal action. Ofcom also has the power to block access to sites.
The Office of Communications, commonly known as Ofcom, is the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the United Kingdom.
The Government also said that the Online Safety Bill also seeks to strengthen the right to freedom of expression, and ensure democratic political debate and journalistic content is protected.
There had been immense pressure on the government for years to take action against online abuse. The issue was highlighted when recently a large group of sports, athletes and organisations participated in a social media boycott, protesting against the lack of action taken against online abuse.
According to Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden, the “ground-breaking laws” would usher in a new age of accountability for tech and bring fairness and accountability to the online world.
Additionally a duty of care would be assigned on social media firms and websites to ensure that they take swift action to remove illegal content, such as hate crimes, harassment, and threats directed at individuals, including abuse which falls below the criminal threshold.
The social media companies would also require to remove and limit the spread of terrorist material, suicide content, and child sexual abuse, and report the same to the authorities.
The UK Governement said, “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. These will be introduced if tech companies fail to live up to their new responsibilities.”
The Government added that the proposed law will also require companies to safeguard freedom of expression, and reinstate material unfairly removed. The law would also prohibit tech firms from discriminating against particular political viewpoints, and Ofcom will hold them to account for the arbitrary removal of journalistic content.