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UK MPs propose heavy fines for social networks that don't tackle abuse

Penalties could total £2 million or 5 percent of their global revenue.
Matt Brian, @m4tt
February 6, 2017
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Although the government is looking to curb the rise of social media abuse by introducing tougher penalties for online trolls, companies like Facebook and Twitter currently don't face much pressure over the policing of their platforms. That could soon change, after Labour MP Anna Turley issued a new proposal calling for communications regulator Ofcom to impose fines up to £2 million for social networks who don't adequately prevent threatening content appearing on their services.

The call for improved measures comes as part of the Malicious Communications (Social Media) Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament. The private member's bill (submitted by an MP who doesn't serve in a government party) would see social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and likely include apps like Snapchat and Instagram, to be added to a register of regulated platforms by the Secretary of State.

If the bill is passed into law, the companies on the list would be encouraged to actively filter content on their networks. Users would be able to opt out if they are over the age of 18, which would force each platform to actively verify the ages of their users. If they don't, they would possibly face a £2 million fine or 5 percent of their global turnover.

Although the Bill has noble intentions, the fact that it has been submitted by a non-government member of parliament may hamper its progress. Private member's bills very rarely make it into law, but it does have the backing of notable female MPs.

Ruth Smeeth, who was given police protection after receiving over 20,000 abusive online messages in one day, and Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff, who was sent a Facebook message from a man (who was later given a suspended sentence) that said: "Dead girl walking. Hope you get raped. We got your phone number and details," are backing the bill. It'll get its second reading in the House of Commons on March 24th.

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