The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has proposed an independent regulator that will write a “code of practice” for social networks and internet companies.

The idea of The Online Harms White Paper is based on “making the internet a safer place” and the call that social networks must tackle material that advocates online-harms, self-harm and suicide.  It became a prominent issue after 14-year-old Molly Russell took her own life in 2017 and other stories what you can see in really good movie on Netflix: ‘To the Bone’ with Keanu Reeves.

What are ‘online harms’? There are clearly defined in law:

  • spreading terrorist content
  • child sex abuse
  • so-called revenge pornography
  • hate crimes
  • harassment
  • the sale of illegal goods

And it also covers harmful behaviour that has a less clear legal definition such as:

The proposal suggests:

  • giving the regulator enforcement powers including the ability to fine companies that break the rules; that could be up to 4% of company’s turnover
  • considering additional enforcement powers such as the ability to fine company executives and force internet service providers to block sites that break the rules
  • #SocialMedia companies should produce annual reports revealing how much harmful content has been found on their platforms

On the one hand as Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: tech giants and social media companies had a moral duty “to protect the young people they profit from”. On the other: is it really an appropriate balance between keeping users safe and preserving the open, free nature of the internet?