Ofcom to be given new powers to regulate ‘harmful’ social media content

Ofcom is to be given the power to fine social media companies in a bid to protect children from “harmful” content online.

The government proposal, which is currently under consultation, will allow Ofcom which already polices TV, radio and broadband in the UK – to issue fines against and websites if it believes they have failed to protect users from seeing harmful videos such as those depicting violence or child abuse.

“The directive proposed a number of appropriate measures to protect minors and the general public from harmful content,” a spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said.

”The government has proposed that Ofcom is given interim powers to regulate -sharing platform services and ensure they comply with minimum standards set out in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) by the transposition deadline,19 September 2020. We are currently consulting on this approach.“

The move follows the publication of the Harms White Paper in April, which called for new legislation to make social media companies responsible for protecting their users.

The DCMS said the move would allow the UK to meet its obligations to the EU regarding online safety, which call for sites to establish strict age verification checks and parental controls to ensure young children are not exposed to harmful content.

If any platforms fail to meet the requirements, Ofcom will be able to issue fines of £250,000 or an amount worth up to five per cent of a company’s revenues.

It will also have the power to “suspend” or “restrict” the tech giants’ services in the UK if they fail to comply with enforcement measures.

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The DCMS has said that the new powers will be given to Ofcom on an “interim basis” but admitted it could become permanent.

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