Online Safety Bill Could Fine Firms 10 Percent Of Turnover

Tech firms faced stiff financial penalties under Government’s Online Safety Bill, which looks to impose tough rules on online content

The Government is expected to introduce its ‘Online Safety Bill’ that seeks to implement tougher restrictions on social media firms.

Earlier this week it emerged that the Bill would place more pressure on social media firms to remove illegal content, while including protections on free speech.

Essentially the bill looks to primarily create a duty of care, obliging companies to take initiative to remove illegal content, and to report it to authorities.

Stiff fines

But it also includes a requirement for companies to be impartial and to refrain from “arbitrarily” removing comments because they are controversial.

The plans will see the new rules being enforced by Ofcom, which would have the power to impose multi-million pound fines or bar companies from operating in the UK.

Ofcom could, for example, will be able to levy unprecedented fines of up to £18m or 10 percent of global turnover it is reported.

This could mean for example that a company such as Facebook could be liable for potential fines of up to £5.3 billion for serious breaches, based on its annual turnover of £54 billion ($71bn).

This is a big change from the GDPR rules, which capped at fines £18m or 4 percent of global turnover.

“We’re really pleased to take on this new role, which will build on our experience as a media regulator,” said Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s chief executive.

“Being online brings huge benefits, but four in five people have concerns about it,” said Dawes. “That shows the need for sensible, balanced rules that protect users from serious harm, but also recognise the great things about online, including free expression. We’re gearing up for the task by acquiring new technology and data skills, and we’ll work with Parliament as it finalises the plans.”

The government is also expected to publish its response to an earlier consultation on the rules.