U.K. Seeks Penalties for Tech Giants to Stop Cyber Bullying

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government will set laws to stop cyber bullying among children, which may include multimillion dollar fines for social media companies like Facebook Inc. if they flout new statutory codes of conduct.

“I don’t want the trolls to win,” Culture Secretary Matt Hancock told ITV after his department published further details of an Internet Safety Strategy on Sunday. The government could have the power to impose penalties of 4 percent of a company’s global revenue if they break the rules, he said.

A forthcoming consultation on the strategy may suggest parents must confirm if their children are old enough to use social media platforms, Hancock said. Even though users need to be 13 to have an account, 61 percent of young people had signed up age 12 or under, according to an inquiry by the charities YoungMinds and the Children’s Society, with Conservative Party lawmaker Alex Chalk.

“My instinct is that parental controls don’t work unless they have a backstop behind them,” Hancock said, adding that new laws could come into force “in the next couple of years”.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport will work with the Home Office to publish a white paper later this year setting out legislation, according to a statement, which will also seek to force tech giants to reveal how they target abusive and illegal online material posted by users. It could also include limits in political advertising following the crisis involving Cambridge Analytica, which was accused of improperly obtaining the personal data of as many as 87 million Facebook users.

Hancock said he was prompted to introduce legislation after he invited 14 of the biggest tech giants to discuss the issues with him and only four turned up. Given the global reach of most tech giants, Hancock said he’s also seeking to draw international support for his new plans and will travel to France next week after visiting the U.S. last week to discuss his ideas.

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