Ministers 'stand ready' to jail social media bosses if they fail to combat online harms, MPs told

·2-min read
TELEMMGLPICT000221577088.jpeg
TELEMMGLPICT000221577088.jpeg

Ministers “stand ready” to jail social media bosses if they fail to clean up their act and protect children from online harms, Oliver Dowden said yesterday.

The Culture Secretary told MPs he was taking powers to impose criminal sanctions - including jail sentences - because he was prepared to uaw them if the tech giants failed to comply with the Government's new duty of care regime.

The Government’s draft online harms bill proposes the regulator Ofcom should have powers to impose fines of up to 10 per cent of global turnover (£6 billion for Facebook) or £18 million, whichever is higher, if they breach the duty of care laws.

But Mr Dowden said: “If it’s the case that fines don’t work, we stand ready to impose those criminal sanctions.”

Under the “reserve” criminal powers being taken by ministers, social media giants would have to name a senior manager who would be responsible for ensuring that the company complied with its legal duty of care responsibilities.

Failure to do so would lead to the executive facing criminal sanctions including jail sentences of up to two years.

Mr Dowden told the culture select committee he hoped the tech giants would comply with fines but he added: “The final step which I am willing to take - and I am willing to take because we will legislate for that power but we won’t enforce it - is criminal sanctions.

“I would rather we didn’t impose new criminal law and I think we should have a very high bar for the imposition of new criminal law but if it is the case that fines don’t work, we stand ready to impose criminal sanctions.”

Andy Burrows, Head of Child Safety Online at the NSPCC, said: “If the threshold for enacting criminal sanctions is regulation failing, the reality will be further years of children facing grooming and abuse that could have been avoided.

“This is a unique chance to move beyond the status quo that sees action taken only after serious harm has occurred, but deferring liability for senior managers misses the opportunity to finally put children first.

“The Culture Secretary should learn from other regulated sectors that hold named managers responsible for the safety of their products, with the threat of fines, censure and, as a last resort, criminal sanctions leading to a culture of compliance.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting