TikTok, Snapchat and OnlyFans face tough new Ofcom rules in European first

·2-min read
TikTok is covered by the new guidelines  (Getty Images)
TikTok is covered by the new guidelines (Getty Images)

Video sharing apps like Snapchat, TikTok and OnlyFans could face fines worth millions of pounds if they fail to crackdown on hate speech and inappropriate content on their platforms under tough new rules introduced by Ofcom.

Britain’s broadcasting regulator today introduced rules governing UK-based video sharing platforms in a European first. Companies must now legally crackdown on things like hate speech and child pornography on their apps, ensure underage kids aren’t able to sign up and ensure users can report inappropriate content.

“Online videos play a huge role in our lives now, particularly for children,” said Dame Melanie Dawes. “But many people see hateful, violent or inappropriate material while using them.

“The platforms where these videos are shared now have a legal duty to take steps to protect their users. So we’re stepping up our oversight of these tech companies, while also gearing up for the task of tackling a much wider range of online harms in the future.”

The crackdown follows growing concern about the content on some of these platforms, including inappropriate and underage sexual content and radicalising hate speech. Ofcom research found a third of users have come across hateful content on video sharing platforms, a quarter have come across violent or disturbing content, and one in five have come across racist content.

Ofcom is already in contact with many video platforms but the new guidelines are likely to involve far more transparency and oversight.

Unlike broadcast TV, Ofcom won’t make judgments on individual pieces of content hosted on platforms but the regulator will regularly inspect companies to ensure they are following the rules. If platforms are found to be failing, they could face a fine of up to 5% of turnover or £250,000, whichever is bigger. In extreme cases Ofcom could shut down the UK operations of noncompliant companies.

UK revenues for the likes of TikTok and OnlyFans currently runs into the hundreds of millions, meaning platforms of this scale could face fines in the millions if they fall foul of the rules.

Ofcom’s guidelines will initially cover 18 platforms, including smaller apps like Twitch and Vimeo. Rules will be toughest for platforms hosting pornographic material, such as OnlyFans. The likes of YouTube and Facebook, which are domiciled in Ireland, will not be covered.

Ofcom is the first regulator in Europe to put in place rules governing these platforms, though the regulation stems from plans put in place by the EU while Britain was still a member.

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