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UK mulls new child safety powers against tech giants as Ireland waits for online safety commissioner


(Stock image)

(Stock image)

(Stock image)

The UK government will consider new powers for its telecoms and broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, to fine online streaming companies such as YouTube and Facebook.

The move is aimed at getting the tech giants to tighten their protections against harmful videos being visible to children.

It’s part of an EU-wide initiative to bring in stricter regulation of online video services, as mandated by the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD).

In Ireland, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has pitched for similar powers, with the government currently considering the BAI’s position alongside the appointment of an online safety commissioner.

The BAI believes that it could become an EU-wide regulator for online video, because Google and Facebook - which between them control YouTube, Instagram and Whatsapp - are based in Dublin.

Sources with the tech giants’ Dublin offices say that they have not yet seen any proposals from the government about such possible new powers.

Earlier this year, the government announced plans that would see a future online safety commissioner given the power to issue ‘administrative’ fines, meaning the commissioner would not have to go through a court.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton has compared the Irish plan to Australia’s e-commissioner, which can fine firms up to €312,400.

The government has also said that a future online safety commissioner may have the prerogative to initiate criminal prosecutions against platforms and companies that refuse to co-operate with the office of the online safety commissioner.

However, Mr Bruton said that in Australia, no actions against big tech firms have needed to be taken.

The UK move comes after Facebook was recently hit with a $5bn fine by US regulators for not taking enough care over users’ privacy.

The company now faces more legal trouble in the US over facial recognition technology.

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