Britain proposed new online safety laws on Monday that would slap penalties on social media companies and technology firms if they fail to protect their users from harmful content.
Easy access to damaging material particularly among young people has caused growing concern worldwide and came into the spotlight in Britain after the death of 14-year-old schoolgirl Molly Russell, which her parents said came after she had viewed online material on depression and suicide.
Governments across the world are wrestling over how to better control content on social media platforms, often blamed for encouraging abuse, the spread of online pornography, and for influencing or manipulating voters.
Global worries were recently stoked by the live streaming of the mass shooting at a mosque in New Zealand on one of Facebook's platforms, after which Australia said it would fine social media and web hosting companies and imprison executives if violent content is not removed "expeditiously".
In a policy paper widely trailed in British media, the government said it would look into possibly using fines, blocking access to websites, and imposing liability on senior tech company management for failing to limit the distribution of harmful content.
It would also set up a regulator to police the rules.
TechUK, an industry trade group, said the paper was a significant step forward, but one which needed to be firmed up during its 12-week consultation. It said some aspects of the government's approach were too vague.
"It is vital that the new framework is effective, proportionate and predictable," techUK said in a statement, adding not all concerns could be addressed through regulation.
Facebook said it was looking forward to working with the government to ensure new regulations were effective, repeating its founder Mark Zuckerberg's line that regulations were needed to have a standard approach across platforms.
"These are complex issues to get right and we look forward to working with the government and parliament to ensure new regulations are effective," Stimson said in a statement.
Prime Minister Theresa May said that while the Internet could be brilliant at connecting people, it had not done enough to protect users, especially children and young people.
"That is not good enough, and it is time to do things differently," May said in a statement. "We have listened to campaigners and parents, and are putting a legal duty of care on internet companies to keep people safe."
The UK Daily Mail writes in-part: "The Government will introduce 'world first' internet safety laws designed to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online, new proposals claim.
A white paper on online harms, published jointly by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Home Office, proposes strict new rules be introduced that require firms to take responsibility for their users and their safety, as well as the content that appears on their services.
It suggests punishing social media companies with large fines or blocking them from being accessed.
Overseen by an independent regulator, internet companies which break these rules could even see senior management held personally liable for the failings.
A 12-week consultation will now take place before ministers publish draft legislation.
The proposed measures are part of a Government pledge to make the UK one of the safest places in the world to be online, and comes in response to concerns over the growth of violent content, encouraging suicide, disinformation and the exposure of children to cyberbullying and other inappropriate material online.
'The internet can be brilliant at connecting people across the world – but for too long these companies have not done enough to protect users, especially children and young people, from harmful content,' she said.
'Online companies must start taking responsibility for their platforms, and help restore public trust in this technology.'
The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, added that tech firms had a 'moral duty' to protect the young people they “profit from.'
'Despite our repeated calls to action, harmful and illegal content – including child abuse and terrorism – is still too readily available online,' he said.
'That is why we are forcing these firms to clean up their act once and for all.'"
Although the U.K.'s law is being dubbed the world's first law against social media, last week U.S.News posted a report titled "Australia to Punish Companies That Don’t Remove Violent Content." The new law passed last Thursday comes after a gunman livestreamed a mass shooting in New Zealand last month.
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