Tech bosses could face prison under tougher Online Safety Bill

The Prime Minister conceded to demands to amend the legislation

Social media bosses who repeatedly fail to protect youngsters from harm on the internet could face up to two years in jail under landmark proposed legislation to regulate online content.

The Government had previously opposed such a measure in the Online Safety Bill, opting for tech executives to instead face higher fines, but the Prime Minister bowed to pressure to make them criminally liable for repeated breaches of their duty of care to children in order to head off a potential rebellion in his party.

Rishi Sunak conceded to demands from almost 50 Tory backbench MPs to make the amendment.

The law will target bosses who “consent or connive in ignoring enforceable requirements, risking serious harm to children”. According to The Guardian, the Bill will not criminalise those who have “acted in good faith to comply in a proportionate way” with their duties.

Ofcom will be put in charge as a regulator to check online platforms are protecting users. Violations could also see fines of up to 10 per cent of companies’ global turnover.

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said the new amendment would be modelled on the Irish Online Safety and Media Regulation Act and will give the Bill “additional teeth to deliver change and ensure that people are held to account”.

The legislation has passed its third reading and will now be scrutinised by the House of Lords.

Richard Collard, associate head of child online safety at children’s charity the NSPCC, said the government’s decision was a “crucial step towards legislation that can truly act as a pillar of the child protection system for years to come”.

This week’s changes come after several amendments made by the Government in recent months, including the scrapping of controversial ‘legal but harmful’ provisions for adults. Critics argued these threatened freedom of speech by potentially allowing for the removal of technically legal content.

Now online platforms will be required to introduce a system allowing users more control to filter out harmful content they do not want to see

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