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Online regulator should be handed ‘serious powers’ to fine social media giants

B oris Johnson has been urged by a former minister to hand to the new online regulator ” serious powers “, including fines that could run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

The Government is this morning expected to set out plans to expand Ofcom’s remit to policing the internet and protecting children from online harms.

Under the plans, tech giants including Google and Facebook will be expected to quickly remove illegal content linked to terrorism and child abuse and to protect children from potentially harmful material.

However, Margot James, the former digital minister, has this morning called on the Prime Minister to ensure that Ofcom is “very, very well resourced” in order to police the new statutory duty of care.

Ms James backed a requirement on social media giants to have a named director who would be personally liable for breaches of the duty of care and face possible criminal prosecution in the worst cases.

She also told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that she believed Ofcom should be able to issue fines of a similar size as the Information Commissioner, which can issue penalties worth up to four per cent of the global turnover of a company for breaches of data protection laws.

“That runs into hundreds of millions of dollars and that’s a serious disincentive,” she said. “I don’t think you can have an effective powerful regulator without the ability to fine.”

She said she was “delighted” that the Government was pressing ahead with the “absolutely vital” duty of care, for which the Daily Telegraph has campaigned since the summer of .

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