The UK is toughening its new social media law, threatening CEOs with prison time

The United Kingdom is toughening its new social media law
The United Kingdom is toughening its new social media law

The government said a number of new offenses had been added to the bill, including criminalizing senior executives at tech firms for destroying evidence, failing to attend or providing false information in Ofcom interviews, and obstructing the watchdog when it enters company offices. Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Google and TikTok have all faced criticism for the content shared on their platforms.

The government of the United Kingdom announced that executives could face prosecution or jail time within two months of the new Online Safety Bill becoming law, rather than the two years previously proposed.

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On Thursday, the Online Safety Bill will be introduced in Parliament and could become law later this year.

It seeks to make it mandatory for social media platforms, search engines, and other platforms that allow users to share their own content to protect children, combat illegal activity, and adhere to their stated terms and conditions.

In addition to potentially prosecuting tech executives, Ofcom will have the authority to fine companies up to 10% of their annual global turnover if the rules are not followed.

The bill requires technology companies to “remove illegal content,” which includes “child sexual abuse,” “controlling or coercive behavior,” “extreme sexual violence,” “fraud,” “hate crime,” “inciting violence,” “illegal immigration and people smuggling,” “promoting or facilitating suicide,” “promoting self-harm,” “revenge porn,” “sexual exploitation,” and “terrorism.”

Companies in the technology sector will be required to “prevent children from accessing harmful and age-inappropriate content.” They’ll also have to “enforce age limits and age-checking measures” and “publish risk assessments.”

Britain, along with the European Union and other countries, has struggled to protect social media users, particularly children, from harmful content while preserving free speech. Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom does not have constitutionally protected free speech.

Silicon Valley is reportedly keeping a close eye on how the bill progresses through the UK parliament. The co-founder of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, tweeted earlier this month that the proposed legislation amounted to “tyranny.”

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