The oft-delayed Online Harms Bill, which aims to make major tech companies accountable for the content on their platforms, has moved closer to signing the law in today’s Queen’s Speech.
The bill, first proposed under then Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017, will give Of com new powers to fine companies up to £ 18 million or 10 percent of global sales (whichever amount is the highest) for failing to comply with their legal duty of care.
users. That duty of care is determined by whether they have allowed illegal content on their platforms, such as child sexual abuse, terrorist material and suicide-promoting media.They will also be required to adhere to a new code of conduct specifically designed to protect children online.
This is particularly relevant given that online child abuse cases have grown rapidly following the coronavirus blockade and the shift to online education through the Internet rather than in person in classrooms.
Non-compliant platforms can be blocked from access in the UK. Of com will also require companies to use “targeting technology” to identify and remove illegal material. In her speech today, the Queen said the bill will allow the UK to “take the lead in ensuring internet safety for all, especially children”.
Her Majesty also referred to improving the national infrastructure, in particular to strengthen connectivity by train and bus and to expand 5G mobile coverage and gigabit broadband.
Alison Trew, senior online child safety policy officer at the NSPCC, said: “The affirmation of an online safety law in the Queen’s speech is an important step towards creating a ‘duty of care’ for children to simultaneously protect young users. when faced with unprecedented risks online.
“The government must learn from other regulated industries to ensure that the bill provides an ambitious and effective framework for Of com to hold technology companies accountable if their products cause preventable harm to children.
“Ultimately, legislation will be judged on whether it prevents harm and abuse and works in the best interests of children, rather than simply enshrining the status quo in regulations that are only palatable to big tech companies.
” In May 2020, colleagues in the House of Lords expressed their frustration at the government’s slow rollout of the Online Harms Bill, saying they were concerned that it could take several years to be fully implemented.