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Ofcom to Gain New Online Safety Powers Following Government Bill

The UK Government this week has released its Online Safety Bill granting new responsibilities in regards to mitigating the risk of harm arising from illegal content online.

For the first time, Ofcom will be able to enforce new regulations under legislation for social media companies that will force them to protect children, stop racism and hate speech, and safeguard people’s democratic rights. Ofcom will be given the power to fine companies up to £18 million, or 10% of qualifying revenue, if they fail in their new duty of care.

As social media usage becomes more popular amongst younger generations, including children as young as primary school age, services will also need to take steps to protect children’s online safety.

In regards to children’s safety in particular, Ofcom announced that following the Government Bill, a new duty of care will ensure that the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google will face significant fines if under-age children can access their services.

In response to this news, Josh Krichefski, EMEA CEO and Global COO of MediaCom says: “Proposals to enforce age verification on social media feels like a step in the right direction, considering the online bullying and hate speech which we know many children – particularly younger ones – should never be subjected to. 

“The reality is that platforms have the power, technology, control and money to stop or, at the very least, vastly limit these issues when they play out online. Yet they continue to fall short. 

“Everything from adverts, viral videos, fake news, content from “friends” and gaming are inappropriate for those under the age of 13 – and the ‘Big Four’ have a part to play in monitoring these vast worlds they’ve created for young people.”

In order for these new rules to successfully come into play, workforces will need to be retrained to spot such issues sooner. Ideas such as Facebook’s AI hate speech tool, and TikTok’s policy to provide resources to users they deem to be struggling with mental health, show progression in the right direction.

Josh adds: “Young people today are growing up in a world that is online first and so it should be the responsibility of government, business leaders and the social media platforms themselves to responsibly safeguard and protect users. The longer this is left unchecked, the deeper the grassroots problems become – and the longer it takes to solve them.”

You can access the full Government Bill to explore the new regulations in detail.

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