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Ofcom to be given new powers to regulate 'harmful' social media content

The watchdog will be able to issue fines and ‘suspend’ websites if they fail to comply.


Ofcom is to be given the power to fine social media companies in a bid to protect children from “harmful” online content.

The government proposal, which is currently under consultation, will allow the watchdog – which already polices TV, radio and broadband in the UK – to issue fines against platforms and websites if it believes they have failed to protect users from seeing harmful videos such as those depicting violence or child abuse.

The move follows the publication of the Online Harms White Paper in April, which called for new legislation to make social media companies responsible for protecting their users.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the move would allow the UK to meet its obligations to the EU regarding online safety, which call for sites to establish strict age verification checks and parental controls to ensure young children are not exposed to harmful content.

If any platforms fail to meet the requirements, Ofcom will be able to issue fines of £250,000 or an amount worth up to five per cent of a company’s revenues. It will also have the power to “suspend” or “restrict” the tech giants’ services in the UK if they fail to comply with enforcement measures.

The DCMS has said that the new powers will be given to Ofcom on an “interim basis” but admitted it could become permanent. 

Child safety charity the NSPCC said the measures were an important step in holding social media and internet firms to account.