New proposals to fine websites over harmful content

Government plans have revealed that internet sites could be fined or blocked if they fail to tackle ‘online harms’, including terrorist propaganda.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), alongside the Home Office, has proposed an independent watchdog that will write a ‘code of practice’ for technology companies, although the government has not decided whether a new body will be established, or an existing one handed new powers.

Alongside Facebook, Twitter and Google, the rules would apply to messaging services such as Snapchat and cloud storage services. The regulator will have the power to fine companies and publish notices naming and shaming those that break the rules.

Although critics claim that the plans threaten freedom of speech, the plans cover a range of issues that are clearly defined in law, which alongside terrorist content, also include child sex abuse, so-called revenge pornography, hate crimes, harassment and the sale of illegal goods.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said tech giants and social media companies had a moral duty ‘to protect the young people they profit from’. He said that, currently, harmful and illegal content remains too readily available online.

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