UK Warns Facebook to Focus on Safety as the Minister Eyes Faster Criminal Sanctions for Tech CEOs

Facebook to Focus on Safety as Minister Eyes

The U.K.’s recently appointed secretary of state for digital, Nadine Dorries, has signalled she wants to take a tougher line on social media platforms than her predecessor — telling a parliamentary committee she’s looking at speeding up the application of criminal sanctions for breaches of incoming U.K. online safety legislation.

A provision to hold named individuals criminally accountable for failing to tackle illegal or harmful content spreading on their platforms was included in the draft Online Safety bill — but deferred for two years.

In an evidence session earlier today, Dorries told the joint committee examining the bill that she wants to accelerate that time frame — potentially cutting the deferral of criminal liability powers down to as little as three to six months after the bill becomes law.

The bill was published in draft form back in May, and last month Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested it will be presented to parliament before Christmas — although reports have suggested that time frame may slip. Nonetheless, given Johnson’s whacking Commons majority, it seems likely the bill will make it onto the statute books in 2022.

So, if Dorries gets her way, criminal liability for tech CEOs could be coming to the U.K. as soon as next year.

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