The UK government is planning to give new, temporary, powers to the digital regulator, Ofcom, allowing it to fine tech firms such as YouTube, Instagram or Facebook who fail to promptly take down harmful content which children could see such as pornography and violence. Under the plans, Ofcom would gain these powers from September 19, 2020. The new powers would only be temporary until an online harms regulator could be handed the responsibility.
Under the new measures, The Telegraph reports that Ofcom will be able to fine companies that do not include strict age checks or include parental controls which prevent children from seeing inappropriate content, described as that which “impairs their physical, mental, or moral development.”
Both the children’s safety charity, NSPCC, and Ofcom, welcomed the new measures. The NSPCC’s head of child safety online policy, Andy Burrows, said:
“The immediacy of livestreaming can make children more vulnerable to being coerced by abusers, who may capture the footage, share it and use it as blackmail.
"The directive gives the UK a chance to introduce tough measures on tech firms that have their European headquarters here.
"Crucially, this is a real chance to bring in legislative protections ahead of the forthcoming Online Harms Bill and to finally hold sites to account if they put children at risk."
Meanwhile, Ofcom believes that the rules are an “important first step” in regulating video-sharing online, explaining that it will work closely with the government to deliver the safeguards. It also supports wider legislation to introduce more protections including a measure which would say that companies have a “duty of care” towards their users.