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Social media bosses who allow sharing of foul content will face tough sentences, says PM

·2-min read
Boris Johnson (REUTERS)
Boris Johnson (REUTERS)

New laws could see “tough” prison sentences imposed on those who allow the sharing of illegal material online, the Prime Minister said on Wednesday.

Boris Johnson warned social media bosses they will face “criminal sanctions” for allowing “foul content” to be shared on their platforms as he pledged the Online Harms Bill would be debated in Parliament before Christmas.

The legislation is expected to force large tech firms - such as Facebook, Twitter and Google - to abide by a duty of care to users.

Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson had to “clamp down on the extremism, the hate and the abuse that festers online” following the killing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess on Friday.

Speaking at Prime Minister Questions, the Labour leader said: “It’s three years since the Government promised an Online Safety Bill but it’s not yet before the House.

“Meanwhile, the damage caused by harmful content online is worse than ever. Dangerous algorithms on Facebook and Instagram. And Hope Not Hate have shown me an example of violent Islamism and far-right propaganda on TikTok.”

Mr Johnson replied: “The safety of MPs, indeed of all public servants, is of vital importance. The Online Safety Bill is of huge importance, it’s one of the most important tools in our armoury.”

He added: “What we’re doing is ensuring that we crack down on companies that promote illegal and dangerous content and we’ll be toughing up those provisions.

“What we’re also going to do is ensure that the Online Safety Bill does complete its stages before this House before Christmas.”

Sir Keir also questioned why bosses of social media companies failing to crackdown on extremism would not face criminal sanctions under the Government’s current plans.

He claimed extremist material had been shared on instant messaging app Telegram while MPs had been paying tribute to Sir David in the Parliament earlier this week.

Mr Johnson later said: “We are willing to look at anything to strengthen the legislation, I’ve said that we will bring it forward to second reading before Christmas.

“And, yes, of course we will have criminal sanctions with tough sentences for those who are responsible for allowing this foul content to permeate the internet.

“What we hope for also, is that no matter how tough the proposals we produce, that the opposition will support it.”

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