Tech giants face hefty fines and banned sites

The logos of Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok are displayed on a computer screen.

Denis Charlet | AFP via Getty Images

LONDON – UK regulators could soon be given the power to fine and block the sites of social media giants such as Facebook, TikTok and Twitter for failing to remove harmful content under new legislation.

The proposals were unveiled on Tuesday and are part of the UK government’s bid to force tech giants to rid their platforms of illegal and toxic content. Supervisors can be held personally liable for failure to comply with a legally binding duty of care. It comes as authorities around the world suppress Big Tech.

According to the government, social media services that host user-generated content or allow people to talk to others online must remove and limit the distribution of content that contains child sexual abuse, terrorist material or suicide. They will also need to do more to ensure that children are not exposed to grooming, bullying, or pornography.

Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and other popular social networks will need to establish clear terms outlining how they address content that is legal but can cause significant physical or psychological harm to adults, such as misinformation about coronavirus vaccines.

UK media watchdog Ofcom will have the power to fine companies up to £ 18 million ($ 24 million) or 10% of their annual global revenues, whichever is higher, for non-compliance. Ofcom could also block access to non-compliant services in the UK

“I’m unashamedly pro tech, but that can’t mean a tech for free to everyone,” UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement. “Britain today sets the global standard for online safety with the most comprehensive approach to date in online regulation.”

“We are entering a new era of accountability for technology to protect children and vulnerable users, restore trust in the industry and enshrine safeguards for freedom of speech.”

Less than 3% of businesses in the UK are covered by online damage rules, the government said. The new regulatory framework must be approved by the UK Parliament before it becomes law.

Dowden added, “This proportionate new framework ensures that we do not place an unnecessary burden on small businesses, but gives large digital companies robust rules for the path to follow so that we can use the brilliance of modern technology to improve our lives.”

The announcement of the new rules comes as regulators around the world try to tighten Big Tech.

Later on Tuesday, the European Union will announce plans for sweeping new digital reforms to ensure technology giants take more responsibility for the content on their platforms. The rules are also expected to prevent such companies from promoting their own services while competing with other services.

According to reports, technology companies could face fines similar to those proposed in the UK – up to 10% of annual global sales – for violations of the new EU rules.

“In recent years, governments, society and the technology companies themselves have recognized the need for concerted action to tackle harmful content online,” said Ben Packer, partner at the global law firm Linklaters. “Today’s proposals from the UK and the EU are the most ambitious measures announced anywhere.”

While the regimes differ in many ways, they both impose new and potentially burdensome obligations on online platforms to protect their users from harmful content. Both also impose heavy penalties on those who fail to comply, including fines of up to 10% of a company. worldwide sales. “


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