The Government is to bring forward its Online Safety Bill next year, which grants the power to issue a potentially billion-pound fine or country-wide block on platforms it deems have not protected UK users.
UK watchdog Ofcom is set to gain the powers to impose the actions if it deems any platform hosting users generated content has failed to do enough to protect children and other users.
The regulator would also require the most used platforms – including Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok – to publish an audit of efforts to tackle posts that are harmful but not illegal.
Actionable content could include terrorist material, child sexual abuse, and content which promotes suicide.
The new rules apply to any company in the world hosting user-generated content online which is accessible by people in the UK or enables them to interact with others online.
Based around a two-tier system, the most used platforms will be placed in Category 1 and could face the toughest penalties.
Category 2 services are outlined as platforms which host dating services or pornography and private messaging apps.
In rules similar but stricter than those set out in the GDPR, companies could face up to £18m or 10% of global turnover, whichever is higher.
This could lead to multi-billion pound fines for the biggest platforms.
Earlier in the year, The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), responsible for issuing GDPR fines, published its own set of 15 new standards which it expects online services to meet in order to protect children’s privacy.
The ICO’s enforcement actions include a fine of £17.5m or 4% of worldwide turnover, whichever is higher.
The new fines from the Online Safety Bill will be imposed if platforms refuse to remove either illegal content or legal but harmful content, which could include unrestricted pornography, online bullying, and dangerous misinformation.
“We are entering a new age of accountability for tech to protect children and vulnerable users, to restore trust in this industry, and to enshrine in law safeguards for free speech,” Britain’s Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said.
“This proportionate new framework will ensure we don’t put unnecessary burdens on small businesses but give large digital businesses robust rules of the road to follow so we can seize the brilliance of modern technology to improve our lives.”