April 4, 2019 / 11:34 PM / 8 months ago

Social media executives could be liable for harmful content: The Guardian

FILE PHOTO: Facebook and Twitter logos are seen on a shop window in Malaga, Spain, June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Jon Nazca/File Photo

(Reuters) - Social media executives could be held personally liable for harmful content distributed on their platforms, the Guardian reported on Thursday, citing leaked British government plans.

The government is expected to unveil its plans on Monday, to be policed by an independent regulator and likely to be funded through a levy on media companies, the Guardian said.

Social media companies have been widely criticized following last month’s attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left several people dead, leading to widespread calls for regulations on harmful online content.

UK communications regulator Ofcom will likely be the initial regulator and will have the power to impose substantial fines against companies and hold individual executives personally liable, if they breach their statutory duty of care to be responsible for the content on their site, according to the report.

Companies such as Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google could be asked to comply with a code of practice and to implement measures to protect users from online harm, the Guardian said.

The British government, Facebook and Google were not immediately available for comment.

The new practices are also likely to include steps companies will be expected to take to combat disinformation and improve transparency of political advertising, the Guardian said.

"Labour have been calling for a new regulator with tough powers to bring social media companies into line for the last year. The public and politicians of all parties agree something must be done to force them to take responsibility for the harms, hate speech and fake news hosted on their platforms, and the plans for personal liability are promising," Labour's Tom Watson said in a series of tweets bit.ly/2WG04Xo.

But some major concerns remain, he added, as these plans could take years to implement.

Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Editing by Diane Craft and Daniel Wallis

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