Published: Thu, April 11, 2019
Technology | By Lionel Gonzales

Social media: the white paper's key points

Social media: the white paper's key points

"The prevalence of the most serious illegal content and activity, which threatens our national security or the physical safety of children, is unacceptable", said the joint proposal from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Home Office that came out on Monday. Rumours are that Ofcom may be involved, but what is clear is that it will be funded by industry in the medium term.

The government said it would consult on the online services in scope of the regulatory framework, as well as options for appointing an independent regulatory body to implement, oversee and enforce the new framework.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that social media firms and tech giants have a moral duty to protect the young users they profit from, adding that harmful and illegal content was still too easily available online despite repeated calls for action.

Other proposals include an obligation to publish transparency reports about measures to combat harmful content, an obligation to respond quickly to user complaints and a requirement to minimise misinformation during election periods.

It proposes an independent body, either a new regulator or an existing one such as Ofcom, that would create a code of practice for internet firms.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said that while the Internet was good at keeping people connected it had not done enough to protect users from unwanted content. Online companies must start taking responsibility for their platforms, and help restore public trust in this technology. "We particularly welcome proposals for a new independent regulator, which should ensure internet bosses make the United Kingdom one of the safest places in the world for children to be online".

A new "Safety by Design" framework to help companies incorporate online safety features in new apps and platforms from the start.

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Wright said: "The era of self-regulation for online companies is over. Child sex offenders use the Internet to view and share child sexual abuse material, groom children online, and even live stream the sexual abuse of children", said the white paper.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: "This is a hugely significant commitment by the government that once enacted, can make the United Kingdom a world pioneer in protecting children online". Young adults or children may be exposed to harmful content that relates, for example, to self-harm or suicide. Thus, it is time to take effective legal action backed up with harsh punishments if they fail to do so.

"Barnardo's has long called for new laws to protect children online, just as we do offline, so they can learn, play and communicate safely". The Paper emphasises that the regulator should take a risk-based and proportionate approach to dealing with this wide range of companies.

"This White Paper is a welcome announcement for those of us working to keep the public safe from the unprecedented terrorist threat", said the Metropolitan Police's Head of Counter Terrorism Policing, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu.

"The Diana Award welcomes today's Online Harms White Paper".

"I'm sure that people will be able to find things on that list that they think are excessive, but also I'm sure there will be people who will say "why haven't we got x, y or z" on the list", he said.

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