Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said “we cannot ignore the crimes being committed on social networks” at the launch of a Government white paper on online harms.
Mr Javid also told tech bosses they must develop new ways to detect illegal content.
The “world first” internet safety laws, designed to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online, were published by the Home Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on Monday morning, setting out plans for hefty fines and criminal liability for senior managers who breach a duty of care overseen by a new regulator.
“For some reason, some tech companies have long got away with the claim that they cannot possibly be expected to take any more responsibility for the safety of their customers,” Mr Javid said at an event in central London.
“They’ll take your money, they’ll harvest your data, they’ll sell your details to advertisers, but protect you from harm? They say ‘no can do’.”
The Home Secretary said that it “cannot turn a blind eye to the darker side of social media”, after a recent terror attack on a mosque in New Zealand which was broadcast live on Facebook.
“Social networks bring great joy and great comfort to a great many people, but we, as a Government and a society, we cannot ignore the fact that individuals and groups around the world are using them to facilitate, encourage and commit some of the most vile and abhorrent crimes,” he continued.
“We cannot allow the leaders of some of the tech companies to simply look the other way and deny their share of responsibility even as content on their platforms incites criminality, abuse and even murder.
“To be a bystander is to be complicit. And I am not prepared to let them stand by any longer.”
Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright also spoke at the event, saying that he believes other countries will follow the UK’s lead.
“There are those who say and will say when they read this white paper, because the internet is global, no nation can act to regulate it unless every nation acts to regulate it,” he explained.
“I don’t agree – I believe the United Kingdom can and should lead the world on this, because the world knows we believe in innovation, and we believe in the rule of law too.
“We are well-placed to act first and to develop a system of regulation the world will want to emulate.”