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Ofcom is drawing up proposals for regulating social media

Ofcom is drawing up proposals for regulating social media companies amid fears they are not doing enough to stem the tide of hate speech and fake news online.

The government has previously threatened to impose new rules on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube if they fail to protect their users.

Now, Sharon White, the head of Ofcom, has revealed the telecoms regulator is due, in autumn, to publish its thinking on the role regulation could play.

In a guest column for the Times, White said she welcomed “emerging actions by the major online players”, but that “the argument for independent regulatory oversight of their activities has never been stronger”.

White said any regulation would need to be based on a set of clear underpinning principles. “In practice, this would place much greater scrutiny on how effectively the online platforms respond to harmful content to protect consumers, with powers for a regulator to enforce standards, and act if these are not met,” she wrote.

Since the start of this year, social media firms operating in Germany have been liable to fines of €50m if they do not act on reports of illegal content within 24 hours. The government has previously expressed a willingness to issues firms with fines if they fail to protect their users.

It is not yet clear if Ofcom would enforce the new regulations, but Matt Hancock, the former culture secretary, ruled out creating a regulator specifically focusing on social media.

In an interview on the BBC’s Media Show, Hancock said he was “not inclined in that direction” and instead wanted to ensure existing regulation is fit for purpose.

He added: “If you tried to bring in a new regulator you’d end up having to regulate everything. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to make sure that the regulations ensure that markets work properly and people are protected.”

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