New rules about the kinds of content that can be shared on video-sharing platforms could mean hefty fines for the likes of TikTok, Twitch and Snapchat.
Following surges in user-generated abuse – as much as a 77% increase in 2020 according to the Internet Watch Foundation – Ofcom has laid out new measures for content-sharing platforms in a bid to better protect users.
Research commissioned by Ofcom shows that a third of users say they have witnessed or experienced hateful content. A quarter claim they’ve been exposed to violent or disturbing content. One in five have been exposed to videos or content that encouraged racism.
In accordance with the new rules, video-sharing platforms such as Twitch, TikTok, Vimeo and Snapchat must ensure that any content relating to racism, terrorism or child abuse does not appear on their respective platforms.
It should be noted, however, that YouTube is expected to fall under the Irish regulatory regime. However, it will fall under the remit of the Online Safety Bill once that becomes law when formally introduced in parliament later this year.
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Ofcom’s new rules aren’t particularly comparable to its broadcast regulations, due to the inherent nature of content-sharing platforms, with the regulator saying it’s role is not to “assess individual videos. The massive volume of online content means it is impossible to prevent every instance of harm”.
The new regulations allow Ofcom to impose fines of up to £250,000, or 5% of the platforms’ “qualifying revenue” – whichever is greater.
In a statement, Ofcom Chief Executive Melanie Dawes said: “Online videos play a huge role in our lives now, particularly for children. But many people see hateful, violent or inappropriate material while using them.
“The platforms where these videos are shared now have a legal duty to take steps to protect their users. So we’re stepping up our oversight of these tech companies, while also gearing up for the task of tackling a much wider range of online harms in the future.”
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