Ofcom warns 12m people in UK have seen bullying, violence or fraud online

Ofcom chief executive Sharon White today called for stricter independent regulation of the internet 

Ofcom chief executive Sharon White today called for stricter independent regulation of the internet 

Ofcom chief executive Sharon White today called for stricter independent regulation of the internet 

Ofcom today called for tougher regulation of the internet – but experts warned it would have too much power if it is handed the job.

Chief executive Sharon White believes tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube should be subject to the same rules as the BBC and ITV.

She also claimed that one in five Britons have been harmed by the internet and social media because of an online ‘standards lottery’ and wants new ‘strong audience protections’.

Her intervention will be made in a speech to the Royal Television Society conference in London this evening. 

An Ofcom spokesman today denied the quango, which regulates TV, radio and broadband in Britain, is trying to grab new powers to tackle the internet.

But Mrs White’s words reveal the broadcasting watchdog is keen to help the Government shape the future of internet regulation.

And experts believe they could be given some or all of the powers because of the amount of time and cash needed to set up a brand new regulator.

Rachel Coldicutt, chief executive of think tank DotEveryone, told Sky News: ‘The problem with a single body is that the internet touches everything, so a single regulator would have enormous power’.  

Sharon White, the regulators chief executive, will today reveal research showing that 12million people have been the victim of bullying, harassment or fraud on sites like Facebook (pictured)

Sharon White, the regulators chief executive, will today reveal research showing that 12million people have been the victim of bullying, harassment or fraud on sites like Facebook (pictured)

Sharon White, the regulators chief executive, will today reveal research showing that 12million people have been the victim of bullying, harassment or fraud on sites like Facebook (pictured)

The Internet Services Providers’ Association back Ofcom’s intervention – but suggested regulation should increase but not stifle the sector.

A spokesman said: ‘It will be critical for any attempt to further regulate the digital environment in the UK to take full account of the efforts that have been made to date and ensure that regulation is targeted and proportionate to ensure that the digital economy can continue to grow’. 

Sharon White will warn that there is a ‘standards lottery’ online and also revealed research showing that 12million people have been the victim of bullying, harassment or fraud.

Mrs White has suggested targets for removing offensive posts and substantial fines if they fail to do it quickly enough. 

In a speech today she will point to the success of her own organisation’s regulation of TV and radio stations as well as mobile phone networks.

Child safety experts also welcomed the move, saying the intervention from Ofcom is ‘hugely significant’ and that regulation of social networks is ‘necessary, desirable and doable.’ 

It came days after the Home Secretary Sajid Javid threatened legislative action against tech companies who fail to protect children online and said: ‘I am not just asking for change, I am demanding it’.  

According to the Daily Telegraph Mrs White will say: ‘As a regulator, we are required to keep audiences safe and protected — irrespective of the screen they watch or the device they hold.

‘Without even knowing it, viewers are watching the same content, governed by different regulation in different places, or by none at all.

‘This is a standards lottery. If protection matters, and we all believe it does, this cannot be our message to viewers – ‘choose your screen, and take your chances.’

The Ofcom boss will also welcome Facebook and YouTube’s hiring of 30,000 extra content moderators – but insist it is still not enough.

She will say: ‘Trust in them is already weakening. Our research shows that people see social platforms as the single biggest source of online harm – and most people want the rules to be tighter.’ 

Traditional broadcasters like the BBC and ITV are bound by strict rules on what they can publish, but social media giants like Facebook , Twitter and YouTube are 'unregulated'

Traditional broadcasters like the BBC and ITV are bound by strict rules on what they can publish, but social media giants like Facebook , Twitter and YouTube are 'unregulated'

Traditional broadcasters like the BBC and ITV are bound by strict rules on what they can publish, but social media giants like Facebook , Twitter and YouTube are ‘unregulated’

The Tories will soon unveil its own proposals to tackle social media and online gaming giants.

Tony Stower, NSPCC Head of Child Safety Online, said: ‘The government is in the process of drafting laws which will hold social networks to account, so this intervention from Ofcom is hugely significant.

‘For such an experienced public regulator to highlight why regulation is needed and how it could be done demonstrates further that tough but proportionate regulation of social networks is necessary, desirable and doable.

‘The NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign is urging government to seize this opportunity to protect children online for generations to come’. 

Broadcasters including the BBC are also demanding regulation of online and video streaming competitors.

BBC director general, Tony Hall, is also set to give a speech today where he will complain that video streaming firms such as Netflix and Amazon are not regulated to the same extent as broadcasters.

Incidents such as the Cambridge Analytica data scandal have increased discussion around the regulation of social networks and the content they produce and how that content impacts upon the health of society and public debate.

In its report, Ofcom said any potential regulation should provide protection and assurance to the public but uphold freedom of expression and allow the public to share and receive ideas without unnecessary interference.

The regulator added that clear and strict penalties needed to be in place to enforce the regulations properly, including ‘meaningful financial penalties.’

These would be similar to those now available to regulators under the new General Data Protection Legislation which enables fines of up to 4 per cent of a company’s global turnover or £17 million, whichever is greater. 

The research commissioned by Ofcom shows one in five Brits have experienced harmful content or conduct. 

Four in five are worried about going online because of fears over ‘illegal, dangerous, misleading or inappropriate’ content, and hacking and privacy concerns.

The data was collected after face-to-face interviews with 1,700 internet users aged 16 or over. 

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