Social network leaders could be held personally liable in the UK for harmful content distributed via their platforms. This is stated in leaked plans from the British government.
The Guardian newspaper obtained the documents and expects the white paper in question to be made public on Monday, after which the government will draft new legislation. According to the paper, the law means that social networks can face significant fines for violating the rules regarding harmful content, and that the bosses of the companies can be held personally liable.
The UK’s plans stem from growing concerns about the role of social media in the dissemination of images of terrorism, child abuse, suicide and self-harm. According to The Guardian, the discussion in the United Kingdom has gained momentum after the suicide of 14-year-old Molly Russell in 2017 and the recent attacks in New Zealand’s Christchurch. Molly Russell’s parents believe their daughter committed her tragic act after seeing images of self-mutilation on social media.
The Guardian expects an independent regulator to be appointed to oversee compliance with the law. Initially, this may be the British telecom watchdog Ofcom; later, the government may set up a new body. According to the newspaper, the regulator will be financed through a levy on media companies.
The proposed regulation is very broad, according to The Guardian, and would apply not only to social networks like Facebook, but also to search engines like Google, messaging services and file-hosting sites. In the foreword to the document, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Culture, Media and Sports Secretary Jeremy Wright say it is time to stop self-regulation and make clear agreements, which will be overseen by the government. .