Britain will be the safest place in the world for children to use the internet

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The Digital Secretary said the revamped Online Safety Bill will help protect youngsters from harmful content, such as pornography, and limit people’s exposure to illegal content.

It will also make it easier to hold tech giants, like Facebook, Google and Twitter, to account.

Ms Dorries said: “The internet has transformed our lives for the better. It’s connected us and empowered us.

“But on the other side, tech firms haven’t been held to account when harm, abuse and criminal behaviour have run riot on their platforms.

“We don’t give it a second’s thought when we buckle our seatbelts to protect ourselves when driving… it’s only sensible we ensure similar basic protections for the digital age.

“If we fail to act, we risk sacrificing the wellbeing and innocence of countless generations of children to the power of unchecked algorithms. I’ve listened to people…and have strengthened the Bill so we can achieve our central aim: To make the UK the safest place to go online.”

Under the new legislation, social media platforms, search engines and other sites where people post their own content will have to protect children and tackle illegal activity.

A raft of new offences have been added to the Bill, including destroying evidence, failing to attend Ofcom interviews and obstructing the regulator when it enters company offices.

Firms that fail to comply could be fined up to ten percent of their annual global turnover by Ofcom, which will also be able to block sites.

And bosses could face prosecution and even jail within two months of the Bill becoming law.

Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes said: “Today marks an important step towards creating a safer life online for the UK’s children and adults. We are looking forward to starting the job.”

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COMMENT BY DEAN RUSSELL

For many years society has been aware of the risks of social media but often felt helpless to do anything about it.

With the introduction of the Online Safety Bill in Parliament today, the UK is taking the lead on regulating social media.

The Bill will form the basis of groundbreaking changes to the law, finally making social media companies responsible for what’s happening on their platforms, including serious offences like hate crimes, fraud and facilitating illegal immigration.

The UK is leading the world with legislation to finally hold social media companies to account.

The Bill will ensure greater equivalence between online and offline harms.

For example, social media platforms will have a proactive duty to mitigate offences ranging from encouraging or assisting suicide to cyberflashing. The most high-risk social media companies will be required to prevent fraud, even in paid-for ads, helping to end the devastating promotion of scam ads.

Users of the most high-risk social media platforms will be empowered to choose whether they continue to see anonymous content, helping to stop the abuse from cowardly anonymous trolls.

And whistleblowers will be able to share concerns with Ofcom.

This Bill will no doubt be replicated around the world as other countries follow suit in this truly groundbreaking legislation.

It will undoubtedly change a lot of lives for the better.

  • Dean Russell – Tory MP for Watford

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