Social media bosses could be jailed for failing to protect the vulnerable from ‘online harms’


Executives at tech firms that don’t protect the vulnerable from ‘online harms’ could be jailed under new rules

  • New legislation will be outlined by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries in weeks
  • An earlier version of the Online Safety Bill said tech firms could face big fines
  • More draconian proposal could see jail terms for non-complying tech bosses










Social media bosses could be jailed if they fail to cooperate with regulators on protecting the vulnerable online, under updated legislation.

An earlier version of the Online Safety Bill, published last year, said tech firms could be fined huge amounts – potentially running into billions of pounds – if they failed to abide by a duty of care.

But ministers had avoided making bosses personally responsible for company failings.

Now, however, senior managers will face prosecution for breaking the duty of care. 

It is understood Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries will outline the more draconian law in the next few weeks, amid growing concern that companies such as YouTube and Facebook are failing to take down harmful content.

It is understood that Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries will outline a more draconian law in the new few weeks to make senior managers personally liable should their company fail to take down harmful content

The legislation is dubbed the Nick Clegg law, as the former deputy prime minister is now vice president for global affairs and communications at Facebook.

Children’s charities and worried families have long campaigned for social media firms to be prosecuted if they fail to crack down on self-harm material.

The calls grew louder after the death of Molly Russell, the 14-year-old who took her own life in 2017 after looking at graphic self-harm images on Instagram.

However defenders of free speech are concerned the threat of criminal prosecution could cause tech companies to censor legitimate content, thus stifling public debate on important issues.

Introducing criminal liability for tech bosses will increase pressure on the Government to accept recommendations from the Joint Parliamentary Committee which scrutinised the Bill to strengthen the exemption for news publishers.

The move is a huge shift in policy by the Government, which had up until now defied calls to make bosses criminally liable for their sites. 

One Whitehall insider said: ‘It had been the sword of Damocles hanging over them.

‘But now it will come into force.’



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