UK eyes regulating social media companies, fines for execs

The United Kingdom is proposing a new plan to aggressively ramp up oversight on tech companies, including fines of senior executives and the possibility of blocking internet platforms that aren't policing their sites enough for harmful content.

The proposed regulations, outlined in a white paper released Monday, would establish a statutory “duty of care” for social media companies like Facebook and Twitter and a new independent regulator to oversee the platforms.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Up until now, we have allowed these firms to regulate themselves, but it is simply no longer working," Prime Minister Theresa May wrote on Monday in a post on Facebook. “Online companies are increasingly operating without consideration for some of their most vulnerable users.”

The U.K.'s definition of online harms would include terrorist propaganda, child pornography, disinformation and any content that incites violence.

The increased scrutiny on tech platforms comes in the aftermath of the mass shooting in New Zealand. The shooting was livestreamed and video of the attack spread across social media platforms in the hours that followed.

May said that the proposal would balance protecting innovation and freedom of speech with the need to protect users.

"We are leading the way on this internationally," she wrote. "And crucially, we’re giving businesses clarity and certainty over what is expected of them."

Before the draft bill gets published and becomes official, it will be subject to a public comment period lasting three months. The deadline to submit comments is July 1.

Owen Daugherty contributed to this report that was updated at 9:35 a.m.