New proposal document to tackle ‘online harms’

 

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has proposed the formation of an independent watchdog, who will write a code of practice document for social networking and internet sites in a bid to stop ‘online harms’. ‘Online harms’ covers a range of issues that are clearly defined by law, including spreading terrorist and sexual content, and other harmful behaviours including cyber-bullying and trolling.

Internet sites could be fined and even blocked from being viewed if they fail to tackle inappropriate content under these new government plans, with the Senior Managers of the failing business potentially being held liable for any breaches.

So, what does the proposal outline?

The Online Harms White Paper is a joint proposal from the DCMS and the Home Office and suggests the following:

  • Establishing an independent regulator that can write a ‘code of practice’ for social networking and internet sites.
  • Giving the regulator enforcement powers including the ability to fine companies when they break the code.
  • Considering additional enforcement powers such as the ability to fine company executives and for service providers to block sites who don’t abide by the code.

Culture Secretary, Jeremy Wright said “The era of self-regulation for online companies is over. Voluntary actions from industry to tackle online harms have not been applied consistently or gone far enough.”

Discussing the potential penalties Jeremy Wright added “If you look at the fines available to the Information Commissioner around the GDPR rules, that could be up to 4% of a company’s turnover… we think we should be looking at something comparable here.”

What does it mean for you?

These potential new rulings will help to protect society from ‘online harms’ whilst continuing to promote the development of the tech industry. We think that the proposal is a positive step towards better protecting online users, especially the younger generation, and we can imagine that many parents will welcome this proposal with open arms.

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