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UK and France Warn of Social Media Fines for Terror Content

The UK and France have warned of possible fines for social media companies and other tech firms that fail to remove extremist content from their platforms.

A Downing Street statement ahead of Prime Minister Theresa May’s meeting with new French President Emmanuel Macron said the two countries – which have both been hit by major terror attacks over the past year – could take stronger action against online providers.

It added:

“Crucially, plans include exploring the possibility of creating a new legal liability for tech companies if they fail to remove content. This could, for example, include penalties such as fines for companies that fail to take action. The two countries will lead joint work with the tech companies on this vital agenda, including working with them to develop tools to identify and remove harmful material automatically.”

The UK and France also resolved to push the G7 to come good on its agreement to establish an industry-led forum which could “develop shared technical and policy solutions” to tackle terrorist content.

“In the UK we are already working with social media companies to halt the spread of extremist material and poisonous propaganda that is warping young minds,” said May in a statement.

“And today I can announce that the UK and France will work together to encourage corporations to do more and abide by their social responsibility to step up their efforts to remove harmful content from their networks, including exploring the possibility of creating a new legal liability for tech companies if they fail to remove unacceptable content.”

The move comes as part of a wider campaign to ensure the internet “cannot be used as a safe place for terrorists and criminals” which has also raised the prospect of a ban on end-to-end encryption.

The Investigatory Powers Act already allows the UK government to force tech firms to provide backdoors in their platforms, although it’s difficult to see how that would be workable, given most are based outside the UK and a ban would be difficult to enforce.

The European Commission appears to be increasingly warming to the idea, however.

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