Jeremy Wright: Social Media Companies Likely To Face Criminal Sanctions Over Failure To Protect Users From Harmful Online Content

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Before heading for a visit to the United States regarding the issue of internet safety, Jeremy Wright, the Culture Secretary, has said that social media companies are likely to face criminal sanctions if they are not able to protect their users from harmful online content.

Next week, Wright will be going to the United States with Margot James, the digital minister, where he is expecting to meet “senior people” at the large tech companies, including Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook.

During an interview with the BBC, he was asked whether the government would be introducing criminal sanctions in its white paper that is scheduled to be released next month. Wright stated: “We will consider all possible options for penalties.”

He added: “It’s important that those companies understand that there are meaningful sanctions available to us if they don’t do what they should.”

The remarks of Wright echo that of Matt Hancock, the former culture secretary who recently warned that sites such as Instagram-owner Facebook could be banned if they will not act over harmful images online. The warnings came amidst the death of teenager Molly Russell, who viewed images of self-harm on Instagram prior to committing suicide.

Wright stated: “The British government will come to its own conclusions about what is exactly necessary to keep our citizens safe.”

He added: “There’s no doubt that we can’t any longer rely on the internet companies to do it for themselves.”

He continued: “We need to take action as a government and we want to do that. We need a good design. I want to make sure the design is right.”

In the past, internet firms have been criticised for not taking the issue seriously. Last year, only four of the 14 biggest tech firms took up the invitation of the government to a meeting regarding the improvement of online behaviour.