The heads of social media companies could be personally held responsible by the British government for any "harmful content" published on their platforms, according to a leaked government proposal obtained by the Guardian.
According to the leak, ministers will legislate for what is being billed as a "duty of care" to be policed by an independent watchdog. The body will be tasked with monitoring social media content, handing out fines for any breaches by social media companies and will also be given the power to hold company executives like Mark Zuckerberg, personally, to account.
It has been reported that the policy will be launched on Monday, April 8, as part of a larger government white paper on the negative consequences of widespread social media usage.
Define "harmful" as you understand it.— Dave (@bravedave99) 5 April 2019
We already know what the regressive left's definition is — "anything I disagree with offends me and hurts my feelings" 🙄🙄
Slippery path which could lead to the death of the Internet, many despotic Countries around the world that criticised on the net can will claim that publications are harmful.
— David turnbull (@DvdTrnbll) 5 April 2019
A government spokesperson has been quoted as saying that, "we will shortly publish a white paper which will set out the responsibilities of online platforms, how these responsibilities should be met and what would happen if they are not."
"We have heard calls for an internet regulator and to place a statutory 'duty of care' on platforms, and have seriously considered all options," the spokesperson added.
The development comes amidst increasing international concern about the degree to which social media giants like Facebook are able to operate with impunity regarding content published on their platforms. For example, it was recently discovered that Facebook was being used to auction off slaves in Nigeria. It has also been reported that Mark Zuckerberg has entered into an alliance with the UK's Daily Telegraph in order to get favourable press coverage. The aforementioned of course has all been happening in a political climate where Facebook is alleged to have allowed ‘fake news' to spread on its website.
In an interview with Business Insider UK back in January, Margot James, the UK's Digital Minister, said that the UK government was putting together plans for a new independent regular to whip social companies into shape: "there will be a powerful sanctions regime and it's inconceivable that it won't include financial penalties [against companies]," Miss James said at the time.
The development comes not long after the publication of a report into online "disinformation" by the UK parliamentary Digital and Culture Committee. The report concluded that Facebook had become a "digital gangster" and called for the social media giant to be regulated by new government law, also saying that the UK should lead the way in a global effort to restore "balance" between social media platforms and "the people."