In a significant move, the UK government on Thursday said that its revised online safety law will speed up the process against tech CEOs to send them to jail if their platforms fail to comply with the Online Safety regulation.
New measures in the law include tougher and quicker criminal sanctions for tech bosses and new criminal offences for falsifying and destroying data.
The Bill was originally drafted with a power for senior managers of large online platforms to be held criminally liable for failing to ensure their company complies with media and comms regulator, Ofcom’s information requests in an accurate and timely manner.
“In the draft Bill, this power was deferred and so could not be used by Ofcom for at least two years after it became law. The Bill introduced today reduces the period to two months to strengthen penalties for wrongdoing from the outset,” said the UK government.
The Online Safety Bill will require social media platforms, search engines and other apps and websites allowing people to post their own content to protect children, tackle illegal activity and uphold their stated terms and conditions.
“The Bill will strengthen people’s rights to express themselves freely online and ensure social media companies are not removing legal free speech. For the first time, users will have the right to appeal if they feel their post has been taken down unfairly,” said Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries.
It will also put requirements on social media firms to protect journalism and democratic political debate on their platforms. News content will be completely exempt from any regulation under the Bill, Dorries added.
Another major improvement in the bill means social media platforms will only be required to tackle ‘legal but harmful’ content, such as exposure to self-harm, harassment and eating disorders, set by the government and approved by Parliament.
Previously they would have had to consider whether additional content on their sites met the definition of legal but harmful material.
“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,” said Minister of State for Security and Borders, Damian Hinds.
Companies will need to demonstrate they are using the right tools to address harms, they are transparent, and any technologies they develop meet standards of accuracy and effectiveness required by the regulator.