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Government proposes levy on social media companies to deal with ‘trolls’

Culture secretary Karen Bradley has unveiled new proposals today intended to cracking down on “cyber-bullying, trolling and under-age access to porn”.

The government’s Internet Safety Strategy will propose a social media code of practice intended to “remove or address bullying, intimidating or humiliating online content”, backed up by a levy or tax on social media companies and “communication service providers” that will be used to “raise awareness and counter internet harms”. 

Finally, an annual ‘internet safety transparency report’ will be produced to “show progress on addressing abusive and harmful content and conduct” – and to justify further intervention in future, if the government deems it necessary. 

The government has justified the proposals by claiming that one-fifth of 12-15 year old children had “encountered something online that they ‘found worrying or nasty in some way'” and that “64 per cent of 13-17 year olds have seen images or videos offensive to a particular group”.

Worse still, according to the government, “nearly half of adult users also say they have seen something that has upset or offended them on social media”.

The government’s announcement continued: “The Internet Safety Green Paper aims to tackle these growing dangers, while continuing to embrace the huge benefits and opportunities the Internet has brought for British citizens.”

Secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Karen Bradley, claimed that while the internet had been “an amazing force for good”, it had also “caused undeniable suffering and can be an especially harmful place for children and vulnerable people”.

It also added to “the action already taken by the Government to stop the spread of poisonous material and propaganda on the internet that could lead people down the path towards terrorism”.

A number of other quangos and lobbying organisations also welcomed the proposals. David Wright, director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, said that he and his organisation welcomed “any piece of work” that would make “the UK the safest place in the world to be online”.

However, the extra bureaucracy and the cost of the levy will also make it more difficult for social media and other online start-ups to get established. The proposals also, though, include “support for tech and digital start-ups to think safety first” to ensure that “necessary safety features are built into apps and products from the very start”.  

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