UK threatens ‘humongous’ fines for social media firms over users under 13 years of age

This announcement comes as the long-awaited online safety bill heads to its final stages in parliament following numerous delays.

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The UK’s technology secretary, Michelle Donelan, has warned that social media companies may face substantial fines if they do not block accounts of users under the age of 13. This statement comes as the online safety bill approaches its final stages in parliament after multiple delays.

The bill grants powers to the UK’s communications regulator, Ofcom, to impose fines of up to 10% of a company’s global turnover if they fail to implement effective age verification measures. Company executives could also face up to two years in jail for persistent breaches. In addition, a draft code of practice will be published by Ofcom to establish the necessary checks to prevent under-13s from accessing social media platforms.

According to Donelan, the legislation aims to protect children from harmful content, including self-harm and pornography. Still, it has faced opposition from tech industry representatives who argue that it could undermine encryption. Nevertheless, the bill appears to have already had an impact, as Meta and Snapchat have stated that they have implemented measures to eliminate users under 13 from their platforms.

Why does it matter?

The digital age has witnessed a rise in children accessing social media platforms, frequently with minimal or no supervision. As a result, the likelihood of them encountering inappropriate content, such as self-harm and pornography, has increased significantly, raising concerns about potential effects on their well-being. The online safety bill is yet another example of the government taking proactive steps to protect the younger generations from the adverse impacts of the digital era. China, for instance, has recently taken more drastic measures by introducing regulations to limit the amount of time children spend on their smartphones.