By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Wednesday that a new bill would see social media companies fined up to 10% of their turnover or Â£ 18m (Â£ 25m dollars) if they fail to root out online abuse such as racist hate crimes, while senior executives could also face criminal prosecution.
The online security bill also aims to strengthen the right to free speech and ensure the protection of democratic political debate and journalistic content, the government said.
âIt’s time for tech companies to be held to account and to protect the people of Britain from harm. If they don’t, they will face sanctions, âInterior Minister Priti Patel said.
Tech companies have been accused of doing far too little to tackle online abuse, with football clubs and other sports authorities boycotting the world’s biggest social media platforms last month to highlight the growing problem .
The bill will impose a duty of care on social media companies and websites to ensure they take swift action to remove illegal content, such as hate crimes, harassment, and threats directed against individuals. , including abuses that fall below the criminal threshold.
It will also be necessary to eliminate and limit the dissemination of terrorist material, suicidal content and sexual abuse of children, which they must report to the authorities.
Companies that fail to do so face heavy fines from the regulator Ofcom, which can also block access to their sites.
“The bill contains powers reserved for Ofcom to bring criminal charges against senior executives whose companies do not comply with Ofcom’s requests for information,” the government said. “These will be introduced if tech companies fail to meet their new responsibilities.”
The proposed law will also require companies to guarantee freedom of expression and reinstate unfairly deleted documents.
It will also prohibit tech companies from discriminating against particular political views, and Ofcom will hold them accountable for the arbitrary removal of journalistic content, the government added.
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(Reporting by Michael Holden)