Government considers Ofcom social media regulation

Posted on August 20, 2019


The British government is believed to be considering giving media watchdog Ofcom the ability to regulate social media platforms and give the company the power to fine these sites over video content that is deemed harmful.

The proposals would see Ofcom given the authority to police and investigate video-sharing and live-streaming platforms and should the regulator deem that content is harmful, it would be able to fine those platforms up to several million pounds for failing to prevent younger users from seeing harmful material, including violent content and pornography.

Furthermore, Ofcom would be able to penalise companies for failing to establish a thorough and robust check for age verification and parental controls to ensure that younger internet users are not being exposed to material that can impair mental, moral, or physical development.

If the government accepts these proposals, then Ofcom could start its social media regulation from September 19th 2020. This move has been designed to meet the country’s obligation to the EU but this could all change depending on the outcome of the current Brexit negotiations, with Britain looking to leave the European Union by October. If the UK leaves with no deal, then the country would not be forced into writing these proposals into law.

This news was first reported by the Telegraph and it was suggested that the proposal was “quietly” agreed prior to the Parliamentary summer break. As a result, Ofcom would be able to fine tech companies up to 5% of their annual revenues and could even block them from being used in the UK should they fail to comply with Ofcom’s rulings. Ofcom has said that it is ready to take on this responsibility.

It would be the first time that social media has been actively regulated in the UK and it follows on from a Government white paper published back in April which calls for legislation to be created to make social media sites have a duty of care to protect their users, with hefty fines for those that don’t.

YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter have all yet to comment on this proposal.

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