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Failure to Tackle Online Harms Could Result in Fines

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will be releasing a code of practice for all tech companies in the UK. The government plans to fine or block websites that fail to stop online harms on their sites, such as child abuse and terrorist propaganda. There’s also a chance that the industry will be levied in order to raise the funds for the regulator.

What are Online Harms?

Stopping online harms has been a major issue since the suicide of Molly Russell in 2017. Molly’s father accuses Instagram as being somewhat responsible for the death of his daughter as she used the app to access content that supported suicide and self-harm.

Suicide and self-harm are considered online harms, but it also includes content such as hate crimes, harassment, illegal sale of goods, child sex abuse, terrorist content and revenge porn. Other online behaviours under the online harm umbrella include fake news, disinformation, trolling and cyberbullying.

Mr. Russell considers the white paper an important step to making the internet safer. However, Mr. Russell did comment on the lack of guidance for parents. More needs to be done to help parents know if websites can be trusted.

Not Enough Has Been Done to Stop Online Harms

The information comes with the release of the Online Harms White Paper. The white paper is the joint proposal of the Home Office and the DCMS. The steps proposed in the paper include:

  • A code of practice for internet firms and social networks will be created by an independent regulator
  • Regulators will have the power to fine companies that fail to comply with the rules
  • Additional powers to allow company executives to be fined and for ISPs to block websites that fail to follow the rules will be considered

Companies have been given the option to self-regulate and this will no longer be the case. Any action that has been voluntarily taken hasn’t been consistent or gone far enough to tackle online harms effectively.

Websites including Facebook. Google, SnapChat, Twitter and cloud storage services will all have to follow the code of best practice. The regulator will fine and potentially remove the websites, but they will also name and shame any company that fails to adhere to the rules.