In a joint proposal from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Home Office websites sharing and hosting harmful content could now be liable for a fine.

The Online Harms White Paper produced by both governing bodies, have suggested establishing an independent regulator that can write a “code of practice” for social networks and internet companies, and to give that regulator powers to fine companies and company executives that break these rules.

What is harmful content?

Harmful content goes beyond what is illegal. Imagery of self-harm, propaganda and misinformation are all considered harmful content because of the damage it does to attitudes and wellbeing. However, this also creates issues around how these can be enforced. Take the mediation of fake news on websites like Facebook, for example.

No one is exempt

Even messaging apps and social media networks will be as responsible for the content shared by its users as other websites which means that these social networks will need to step up the policing of their own content to make sure that they are compliant. It’s unclear how companies will be responsbile but it’s likely that they’ll need to increase the use of agencies and consultants to moderate all the content that is uploaded, whether it is a link, photo or video.

What happens now?

The proposal, which includes suggestions for the Code of Conduct, will be discussed over the next 12 weeks. It could be that a new regulatory body is created or an existing government body, like Ofcom, takes over enforcing these new rules. You can find more information on the BBC website.