Gosport MP, Caroline Dinenage, has today with the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, published the Full Government Response to the Online Harms White Paper. The Online Safety legislation announced today will be introduced to Parliament in a Bill next year – to protect children and vulnerable users and hold tech firms to account over the material that they allow to be published and shared.
Caroline in her role as Minister of State for Digital and Culture has met with stakeholders, tech firms, charities and also Ian Russell, daughter of Molly Russell who tragically took her own life in 2017 aged 14 after viewing graphic self-harm material on Instagram.
Talking on BBC’s Woman’s Hour this morning she said that we have seen “far too many cases of children being groomed or abused, of young people being driven to hurt themselves because of something that they have seen online and too many people bombarded with racism, misogyny and trolling” and that the Bill was “our attempt to set a global standard of safety online to tackle this.”
The Bill will ensure that tech firms have a legal ‘duty of care’ to users, meaning they will be responsible for removing and limiting the spread of illegal and harmful content from child sexual abuse to terrorist material. It will provide greater clarity over what legal content is acceptable on major service providers and how to complain when things go wrong. Tech firms will now be regulated by Ofcom who will have the power to fine firms either £18 million, or 10% of their annual global turnover, whichever is higher.
It will also avoid unnecessary burdens for small businesses with a proportionate framework geared towards the platforms that pose the greatest risk.
“This year has shown us the amazing power of the internet to keep us connected, help us do business and deliver public services. However, the pandemic has also shone a light on the risks posed by harmful content online. It drove a spike in disinformation and underlined a more grave problem, the dangers to children.
“This response is the most comprehensive approach taken to online regulation anywhere in the world, aiming to protect our children and vulnerable residents from online harms and ensure that big tech firms are responsible for the content that they share and allow to be viewed on their platforms.”
In his article in the Telegraph today, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden commented:
“Up until now, tech companies have been 'marking their own homework' – with predictable results. They’ve set terms and conditions, but too often, those safeguards are not enforced.”
He went on to say that “we are stepping in, and announcing ground-breaking legislation to hold tech platforms to their promises. This will be a new age of accountability… Taken together, these measures mark a significant step in the continual evolution of our approach to our life online – and it’s fitting that this country should be the one to take it.”