Social media executives could face two years in jail if they allow children to view harmful material, under plans to be discussed by ministers today.
Backbench Conservative MPs are pushing to toughen up the Online Safety Bill in order to make tech executives ‘sit up and take notice’.
The flagship legislation will require social media firms to take down illegal material and prevent children viewing harmful content, including material promoting suicide and self-harm.
Firms breaking the new law will be liable for fines of up to 10 per cent of global turnover, potentially running into billions of pounds.
But critics have complained that proposals to jail executives who fail to comply were previously quietly dropped earlier this year.
Veteran Tory MP Sir Bill Cash said the current proposals were ‘too weak’ to deal with multinational companies whose revenues run into tens of billions of pounds.
The new amendment to the legislation would introduce jail terms of up to two years for directors who fail in their duty to protect children or who allow terrorist groups to exploit their platforms.
Sir Bill, who provided legal advice on the 1978 legislation which first criminalised taking indecent photographs of children, said: ‘The Government wants to leave it all to Ofcom, and we are at risk of being left with a bureaucratic regulator trying to police some very big, very well-resourced corporations. The one thing that will make them sit up and take notice is the prospect of going to jail.’
Sir Bill referred to Molly Russell (pictured), who took her own life at age 14, when he stressed that the issue of online safety is ‘one of the greatest public importance’
He added: ‘The issue is one of the greatest public importance as there are people involved in the online industry who are influencing our children with profoundly tragic consequences, as in the case of Molly Russell and many others.’
The move is also backed by fellow Tory Miriam Cates, who is campaigning to curb the ‘epidemic’ of online pornography.
She said the internet was undermining parents’ ability to keep their children safe, adding: ‘The number of people influencing our children in their bedrooms, often malevolently, is off the scale.
‘It is hard to comprehend the impact and influence that the internet has had on children, and a large number of those providers do not have their best interests at heart.’TIOB News