SOCIAL media sites face being made to pay for action to tackle online bullying, the Culture Secretary has announced.
Targeting “dangers like cyber-bullying, trolling and under-age access to porn”, the strategy offers the first suggestions of policies to be included in the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledge for a Digital Charter.
In its manifesto, the party said the charter would “put a responsibility on industry not to direct users – even unintentionally – to hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm”.
The strategy proposes a code of practice for social media companies which would create “a joined-up approach to remove or address bullying, intimidating or humiliating online content”.
The leading minister, Karen Bradley MP, said: “The Internet has been an amazing force for good, but it has caused undeniable suffering and can be an especially harmful place for children and vulnerable people.”
She later told Sky News: “If it’s required and we have to legislate to make this happen, then of course that’s what we’ll do. But I would like to work with the internet companies so that we can do this on a voluntary basis.
“I rule nothing out – I want to make this work.”
It follows the announcement of a new national police hub being set up to crack down on online abuse and trolls.
It also sees through a manifesto Digital Charter pledge to create a new tax on social media companies to fund programmes raising awareness and countering “internet harms”.
The strategy also suggests a greater role for the education system in helping children use services online in a safe manner.
Two new subjects would be introduced in schools, Relationship Education at primary, and Relationship and Sex Education at secondary, to provide online safety education.
Confirmed in the Queen’s Speech, the Digital Charter has ignited concerns from digital rights groups about the possible implications for civil liberties.
In the manifesto, the party said it would also introduce a sanctions regime for companies that fail to meet their legal duties in regards to content that is deemed in breach of law.
The difficulties in establishing whether content could be illegal or not were highlighted earlier this year when YouTube deleted an archive of video evidence of potential war crimes in Syria.
In 2012, Twitter user Paul Chambers had his conviction overturned in the High Court after a joke threat on the messaging platform: “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your act together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!”
The proposed strategy is out for consultation until Thursday 7 December, and the Government said it expects to provide a response in early 2018. News.sky.com