Published: Fri, February 14, 2020
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Ofcom to become the UK's first social media watchdog

Ofcom to become the UK's first social media watchdog

Ofcom, under the proposals, will enforce a statutory duty of care that spans harmful and illegal content hosted on platforms that host user-generated content or allow a forum for interaction between users. "We will make sure that Ofcom has the resources and the enforcement powers that it says are going to be the most effective".

The U.K. government is planning to crack down on damaging internet content on social media platforms, which could face fines for failing to prevent activities such as child exploitation and incitement to violence.

The government launched its first Online Harms consultation in April a year ago, which received almost 2,500 replies.

Vodafone said it broadly welcomed the government move as a "step in the right direction", because the company has a "long-standing commitment to keeping people safe online, especially children and other vulnerable groups".

Although the new move by the United Kingdom government was much-needed, these social media platforms are still self-regulating in a lot of different countries.

"With Ofcom at the helm of a proportionate and strong regulatory regime, we have an incredible opportunity to lead the world in building a thriving digital economy, driven by groundbreaking technology, that is trusted by and protects everyone in the United Kingdom", declared Morgan.

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The British government said Wednesday it would like to give the Ofcom broadcast regulator the power to regulate the internet and fight harmful social media content. The Response does not shed any light on the future penalties regime of Ofcom with its "Online Harms" hat on; in particular, there is no indication of whether Ofcom will be given similar fining powers to the ICO (up to the higher of 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million). Instead companies will be required to explicitly state what content and behaviour is acceptable on their sites in clear and accessible terms and conditions and enforce these effectively, consistently and transparently. "They should apply both to the tech platforms as corporate entities, but we also think it's hugely important that we see a named director scheme, where named directors have the responsibility for upholding that duty of care". This means that, should the social media landscape shift suddenly, as it is wont to do, it shouldn't take lengthy new procedures for adaptation to catch up.

She added the measures would only apply to websites that allow sharing of user-generated content - for example, through comments, forums or videos - meaning fewer than 5% of all United Kingdom businesses will be affected. It will be up to Ofcom to monitor new and emerging online dangers and take appropriate enforcement action.

The initial response to the consultation has set out the government's thinking at this stage, although the plans are still subject to change between now and when the final response is issued in spring 2020.

They said users should also be given the chance to appeal when their content is removed, and platforms must be more transparent over removal decisions.

Social media companies like Facebook and Instagram will be subject to more scrutiny in the United Kingdom over harmful content appearing on their platforms, with new powers awarded to a government-appointed regulator.

Sky News reports that there has been "no confirmation of what punishments or fines the bolstered regulator will be able to hand out".

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