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UK government mulls online role for broadcast regulator

AFP  |  London 

The British government said Wednesday it would like to give the Ofcom broadcast regulator the power to regulate the internet and fight harmful social media content.

Media minister Micky Morgan told parliament she was "minded to appoint Ofcom" in charge of policing online harms.

But she gave no details about how this would be accomplished or say when Ofcom would be officially given its new role.

"We have an incredible opportunity to lead the world in building a thriving digital economy," Morgan said in a written response to a set of proposals published by the government last April.

Former prime minister Theresa May wanted social media companies to accept "duty of care" obligations that required them to identify and remove "online harms".

Those that failed would have first been issued warnings and then hit progressively with more punitive sanctions.

The April proposals said these included "the creation of new liability (civil fines or extended to criminal liability) for individual senior managers".

But Morgan did not say Wednesday whether the fines or more serious proposed penalties such as taking platforms offline were still being considered by May's successor, Boris Johnson.

"We will give the regulator the powers it needs to lead the fight for an internet that remains vibrant and open but with the protections, accountability and transparency people deserve," Morgan said in her written response.

The Office of Communications -- known as Ofcom -- was established in 2002 and began to formally oversee television and radio the following year.

It receives thousands of viewer and listener complaints a year about potentially biased or offensive programming and other complaints.

But Britain has no official internet or social media regulator and is looking for ways to stop harmful online content from reaching children.

The issue gained added urgency in 2017 when a 14-year-old girl killed herself after following a series of accounts about suicide and depression on Instagram and Pinterest.

Social media giants such as Facebook want governments to adopt a common rulebook and oversight bodies.

The UK government has been consulting social media executives about its proposals for over a year.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, February 12 2020. 17:52 IST