New UK Tax Could See Internet Giants Pay for Not Taking Online Abuse Seriously

New UK Tax Could See Internet Giants Pay for Not Taking Online Abuse SeriouslyCC0Tech15:23 11.10.2017Get short URL
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Internet giants Facebook and Twitter could be made to pay for the “undeniable suffering” caused by online abuse, cyberbullying and underage access to pornographic material.

Plans are being finalized by the UK government to introduce a new tax on social media companies to help finance a clampdown on the growing dangers of online abuse, as well as raise awareness to the problems caused. 

Ministers believe the web companies should be hit with a proposed new levy that would fund schemes to tackle the worst effects and, ultimately, make the online world far safer. No financial figure has been mentioned and would involve consultation with the industry and other stakeholders.

UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has outlined the move in an Internet Safety Green Paper that calls on social media companies and service providers to take their responsibilities seriously. 

Among the options is an “industry-wide levy” that would be used to fund schemes that “raise awareness and counter internet harms.” The government hopes the private sector will consider a “voluntary-funded approach,” but if this is not forthcoming then it will introduce a new tax regardless.

‘Collaborative’ Approach

The minister wants social media platforms to reveal the scale of online hate and will encourage them to sign up to a voluntary code of practice to alleviate the effects.

Ms. Bradley said the move was for a “collaborative approach” with internet groups, adding she hopes to see a “willingness” on their part.

“Many of them say: When we founded these businesses we were in our 20s, we didn’t have children… now we’re older and we have teenagers ourselves we want to solve this,” Ms. Bradley said.

While the internet had been an “amazing force for good,” the minister added, it had caused undeniable suffering as well as a harmful place for children and vulnerable people.

“For too long there’s been behavior online that would be unacceptable if it was face-to-face,” she added.

Almost a fifth of youngsters aged between 12 and 15 have seen something they found worrying or nasty, while almost half of adults admit they have been upset or offended by material posted on social media, according to government figures.

“We need an approach to the internet that protects everyone without restricting growth and innovation in the digital economy. Our ideas are ambitious — and rightly so. Collaboratively, government, industry, parents and communities can keep citizens safe online, but only by working together,” the minister said.

Other proposals announced is the removal of bullying, intimidating or humiliating online content as quickly as possible, an annual internet safety transparency report to show progress on addressing abusive and harmful content, and extra guidance for tech and digital start-ups to ensure safety features are built into apps and products from the outset.

Earlier this year UK prime minister Theresa May challenged the world’s biggest technology firms to take down terrorist propaganda in as little as one hour or face the threat of financial penalties.

The move comes just days after Dame Patricia Hodgson, chair of Ofcom, raised the prospect of web companies facing a greater amount of regulation to tackle the rise of “fake news.”

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