After ministers negotiated an agreement with Conservative backbenchers, tech bosses whose platforms consistently fail to protect minors from internet harm will face criminal prosecution.
After a rebel amendment to the online safety law gained backing from the opposition, Rishi Sunak was at risk of losing Tuesday’s Commons vote. As a result of the government’s decision to alter the law, supporters have now withdrawn the amendment.
Senior executives at digital companies will face criminal charges and up to two years in prison if they repeatedly fail to uphold their duty of care to minors under the proposed reforms. The government anticipates taking action against bosses who disobey enforcement notifications from Ofcom, the communications regulator, about violations of their obligations to ensure children’s safety, which includes preventing them from being exposed to materials that encourage self-harm and eating disorders.
Executives who “acted in good faith to comply in a proportionate way” with their obligations will not be prosecuted. With the assistance of influential individuals like Iain Duncan Smith and Priti Patel, the rebellion was led by Sir Bill Cash and Miriam Cates. On Tuesday, the internet safety measure will return to the Commons, but the modifications, first noted by the Daily Telegraph, will only take effect once it has passed the House of Lords.
In response to previous uprisings in Parliament, Prime Minister Sunak has backed down three times since taking office in October. He already caved in the face of protests over housing objectives and onshore wind farm limits. Sunak has a majority of 67.
NSPCC’s prediction about Internet companies
Michelle Donelan, the secretary for culture, was reportedly “pleased that colleagues will no longer be pushing their amendments to a vote following constructive conversation and work”, according to a government source.
The child protection organisation NSPCC predicted that top management culpability would contribute to a culture shift in internet companies.
“By committing to senior manager liability, the culture secretary has sent a strong and welcome signal that she will give the online safety bill the teeth needed to drive a culture change within the heart of tech companies that will help protect children from future tragedies,” said Richard Collard, the associate head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC.
Along with the European Union and other nations, Britain has struggled to safeguard social media users. Especially minors, from harmful information without curtailing free speech.
The original intent of the measure was to establish one of the strictest regulatory systems for controlling websites like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.