News | Published April 09 2019

DCMS department consider 'code of practice' for big tech firms

New government plans are set to fine or block websites that fail to prevent the circulation of harmful material.

Under a proposal put forward by the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport, websites that do not tackle “online harms”, which include terrorist propaganda and child abuse, could face penalties.

The DCMS department have advised as part of an Online Harms White Paper that an independent watchdog is established that enforces a new "code of practice" that tech companies would have to abide by.

Following the publication of the proposals, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said: “The era of self-regulation for online companies is over.

"Voluntary actions from industry to tackle online harms have not been applied consistently or gone far enough.”

During the White Paper it is advised that a new regulator is made able to issue fines to websites or even block those in serious contravention of the code of practice.

Wright added: “If you look at the fines available to the Information Commissioner around the GDPR rules, that could be up to four per cent of company's turnover.

“We think we should be looking at something comparable here.

In light of the story we spoke to Carey Rowe, Director of the International Summer School for Teens programme in Scotland.

International Summer School for Teens plays host to over 200 students each summer in Stirling, offering a vast range of academic and vocational opportunities including creative coding.

Rowe said: “At ISSFT, we are well aware that today’s teenagers have grown up as digital natives.

“They have been reared in the age of the internet and how they engage online is often an extension of their own sense of self.

“As digital skills become increasingly important for future employment, we believe it is the responsibility of parents, educators and tech companies to teach young people the necessary skills to safely navigate the online world.

“In our classes, we have found that often our students use technology for problem solving and working together.

“They are optimistic, tolerant and inclusive and when it comes to solving the big issues such as the environment, they wholeheartedly believe that the answers lie in tech.

“While much of the responsibility for keeping our kids safe online must lie at the doorstep of the big tech companies and the government, we must also ensure that our young people know how to express themselves creatively and learn to communicate authentically on a basic, human level.

“This particular responsibility extends to us all.”

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Authored by

William Winter
April 09 2019

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