Great Britain

Social media platforms that fail to protect children face being shut down under ‘history-making’ new laws

SOCIAL media platforms that fail to protect children online face being shut down under “history-making” new laws.

Tech giants could face fines of up to £13million or have their site blocked for UK users under the new laws being unveiled by the government on Wednesday.

Boris Johnson committed to pressing ahead with the Online Safety Bill in today's Queen's Speech.

The legislation being introduced is the first of its kind in the world and hopes to make Britain the safest country in the globe online.

Sites like Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and Youtube will be forced to enforce minimum age limits.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says that companies will have “no excuses” and will “face the consequences” if they break the rules.

He believes the Bill will stop racist, ant-semitic and misogynistic abuse online.

He told The Telegraph: “Enough is enough. We’re all sick to death of the bile and the threats.

“If it’s illegal, platforms like Facebook and Twitter will have to flag and remove online abuse quickly and effectively or face the consequences. 

“The same goes if it breaches their terms and conditions. No more excuses.”

Online platforms will have to clearly spell out to users what constitutes harmful content and introduce tools to easily report extreme posts.

Mr Dowden continued: “So today the Government is publishing history-making legislation that will finally bring accountability to the online world.

“It will keep our kids safer online, but it won’t be a censors’ charter.”

The law has been in the pipeline since December last year in the wake of high-profile cases, such as the deadly rampage in New Zealand by a gunman streaming live on social media.

Measures to tackle disinformation with a "media literacy" campaign will also be included after social media became a breeding ground for 5G and anti-vaccine conspiracies.

Lockdown has seen Brits spend record time staring at screens, racking up an average four hours online each day.

Alarming research by YouGov found almost half of children were exposed to posts they didn't want to see during the pandemic.

And one in seven said they were exposed to harmful content on a daily basis.

Alison Trew, senior child safety online policy officer at the NSPCC, said: "The confirmation of an Online Safety Bill in the Queen's Speech is a significant step towards creating a Duty of Care for children in order to protect young users at a time when they face unprecedented risk online.

"The Government must learn from other regulated industries to ensure the Bill delivers an ambitious and effective framework for Ofcom to hold tech firms to account if their products cause avoidable harm to children.

"Ultimately legislation will be judged on whether it prevents harm and abuse, and works in the interest of children rather than simply embedding the status quo with regulation that is palatable only to big tech firms."

Queen's Speech 2021: Her Majesty delivers address setting out government's legislative agenda

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