LONDON — Buzzfeed reported today that the U.K. government is planning to establish a new internet regulating authority — similar to British communications regulator Ofcom — that would have the powers to enforce a compulsory code of conduct and age verification for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The news portal also said that members of Parliament are also looking at creating a second new regulator for online advertising.
“Government sources have indicated that their frustration that the tech industry has failed to take voluntary action to promote online safety has led them to pursue a mandatory approach,” Buzzfeed said in its report.
A government spokesperson told BuzzFeed that a new draft plan by the U.K. Home Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport would be unveiled later this year.
"This winter we will publish a white paper, setting out new laws to tackle the full range of online harms and set clear responsibilities for tech companies to keep U.K. citizens safe," the source told Buzzfeed. "We are considering all options, including what legislation will be necessary and whether a regulator is needed."
Specifically, Buzzfeed said the government's proposals would:
- Make social networks verify the age of their users;
- Punish social networks that failed to remove terror content or child abuse images;
- Force sites to remove illegal hate speech within a specific time period or face penalties; and,
- Restrict ads online for food and soft drink products that were high in salt, fat or sugar.
Last year, the U.K. government passed the Digital Economy Act to address certain internet issues, including the stated goal of protecting minors from adult content.
The new law has led to the introduction of regulations pertaining to age-verification controls for adult websites, which are still undergoing their final review from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the U.K. government.