Online platforms to face new 'duty of care' in the UK

Image used for representational purpose only

Image used for representational purpose only

"Despite our repeated calls to action, harmful and illegal content - including child abuse and terrorism - is still too readily available online", he said. The Paper emphasises that the regulator should take a risk-based and proportionate approach to dealing with this wide range of companies. It is unclear at this stage whether the Government envisages a new regulator or an existing one handed new powers. "We particularly welcome proposals for a new independent regulator, which should ensure internet bosses make the United Kingdom one of the safest places in the world for children to be online".

The British government's "online harms" white paper that is open for public consultation till July 1, aims to make online platforms liable to protect their users, especially children.

The general public, meanwhile, might be more accepting of the proposals: In a survey of 2,000 United Kingdom citizens carried out by Eskenzi PR in February this year, 83 percent of respondents stated that Facebook needs to be regulated while only four percent stated that it did not, 73 percent felt that the social networking service was actively damaging to people's mental health, and 70 percent believed that 'fake news' spread via such platforms is damaging democracy.

The requirement, which are the first of their kind globally, will be enforced by an independent regulator. Rumours are that Ofcom may be involved, but what is clear is that it will be funded by industry in the medium term.

"It's important too that online companies, who can see those new harms perhaps emerging more quickly than a regulator would be able to, remember that their duty of care applies not just to those things there is a code of practice about, but also more broadly to other things that they need to do to keep their users safe".

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The new duty is to be set out in new legislation which the government has said it will introduce to address online harms. Companies could also face fines or be blocked by internet providers.

"Voluntary actions from industry to tackle online harms have not been applied consistently or gone far enough", said Media Secretary Jeremy Wright.

"That's what this white paper is created to achieve". Others view it as a necessary and welcomed instrument given the proliferation of illegal and unacceptable content online that threatens democracy, national security and the safety of internet users. The Government is now consulting on some aspects of its proposals, although it appears committed to its basic proposed regime.

The UK government has published its Online Harms White Paper with new online safety laws aimed at making the UK the safest place in the world to be online. It hopes to promote a United Kingdom industry of tech-safety companies.

A number of charities and campaigners have called for greater regulation to be introduced, while several reports from MPs and other groups published this year have also supported the calls for a duty of care to be implemented. "The UK will be the first to do this, leading worldwide efforts by setting a coherent, proportionate and effective approach that reflects our commitment to a free, open and secure internet", it said.

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