The UK government has announced that it will be updating the Online Safety Bill to make top tech bosses personally liable for the content that is hosted on their platforms. This is a significant change, as it would mean that CEOs and other senior executives could be held criminally responsible for illegal content that is found on their platforms.
The update to the bill is being made in response to concerns that the current law is not strong enough to protect users from harmful content. The government believes that making top tech bosses personally liable will give them a greater incentive to remove illegal content from their platforms.
The update to the bill is still in the early stages, and it is not yet clear how it will be implemented. However, it is a significant development that could have a major impact on the way that tech companies operate in the UK. Minister for Technology and the Digital Economy Paul Scully said:
“This Government will not allow the lives of our children to be put at stake whenever they go online; whether that is through facing abuse or viewing harmful content that could go on to have a devastating impact on their lives. To prevent any further tragedy and build a better future for our children, we are acting robustly and with urgency to make the Online Safety Bill the global standard for protecting our children.”
Key points of the update to the bill
- Top tech bosses will be personally liable for illegal content that is hosted on their platforms.
- This includes content that is harmful to children, such as child sexual abuse material.
- It also includes content that is used to incite violence or hatred.
- Tech companies will be required to take steps to remove illegal content from their platforms.
- They will also be required to report illegal content to the authorities.
The Online Safety Bill, which was brought before Parliament in March 2022, gives the regulator OFCOM the power to impose hefty fines on companies that fail to protect their users from illegal and harmful content, such as child sexual abuse, terrorism, cyberbullying, and self-harm. The bill will also allow OFCOM to hold senior managers personally liable for breaches of duty of care, and to block access to non-compliant services.
In 2019, Microsoft ranked the UK as the safest internet country. Following the UK were the United States, France, Belgium, and Germany rounding out the top 5. Still, Microsoft said at the time that even the best countries still have plenty of work to do to ensure a truly safe online environment. Since then the UK further bolstered its leading position with the Online Safety Bill.