The culture secretary has announced a widening of the powers of media regulator Ofcom.
Ofcom will now become the UK’s first online harms regulator charged with holding social media companies to account.
The regulator will have a key role in enforcing a statutory duty of care to protect users from harmful and illegal terrorist and child abuse content.
DCMS Secretary of State Nicky Morgan said: “With Ofcom at the helm of a proportionate and strong regulatory regime, we have an incredible opportunity to lead the world in building a thriving digital economy, driven by groundbreaking technology, that is trusted by and protects everyone in the UK.”
— DCMS (@DCMS) February 12, 2020
It’s likely the change to Ofcom’s remit could take some time to put in place as the government considers the full impacts of this potential change, both for Ofcom and to inform broader work on the regulatory landscape.
However, the chair elect of the parliamentary DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight said the statement failed to demonstrate the urgency that is required.
“The regulator must take a muscular approach and be able to enforce change through sanctions that bite. That means more than a hefty fine – it means having the clout to disrupt the activities of businesses that fail to comply, and ultimately, the threat of a prison sentence for breaking the law.”
The move was welcomed by charities, who say they hope that powers over the likes of Facebook and YouTube will result in a ‘global standard’.