Social media companies such as Facebook and Instagram could face multi-million pound fines, as well as criminal prosecutions, under new proposals to protect online users. New plans, seen by The Telegraph, would see a statutory duty of care created, the creation of a new independent regulator, and the power to enforce strict sanctions. The laws could even see networks being barred from operating in the UK if they fail to keep their users safe from harm.
The move comes after the tragic death of 14-year-old Molly Russell, whose father blamed her death on Instagram after they later discovered she had been viewing content on self-harm, depression, suicide and anxiety.
Reports last month also suggested that suicide rates in teenagers had almost doubled, according to provisional data from the Office of National Statistics. At the time, Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England said tech giants such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook needed a new regulator to monitor material and remove the worst of it.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid is said to have agreed the plans, along with Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
The online harms White Paper will be officially released later this month, but are said to include plans for a new independent regulator with the power to issue substantial fines, start criminal prosecutions against executives, or even ban social media companies from operating in the UK.
The new white paper proposals:
- A new independent regulator for social media companies, enforcing a ‘duty of care’ to users
- The power to impose ‘multi-million pound fines’ lined to a company’s annual turnover
- A ‘senior management liability’ which could see executives held responsible for breaches
- Naming and shaming those who breach standards
- The power to stop companies operating
Earlier this year Instagram banned self-harm images amid a sea of criticism, with their chief operating officer saying they had a “responsibility to get this right”. The NSPCC has also called for stronger regulations for social media firms, saying director should be held personally responsible.