Four in five adults want social media bosses to be held legally responsible if children are harmed by content

An overwhelming majority of UK adults want tech giants to employ top executives who are held legally responsible for children harmed by social media, according to a new survey.

Four out of five people surveyed by YouGov would support adding the requirement to the government’s budget. Online Security BillIt aims to regulate internet content to help keep users safe.

A cross-party group of lawmakers came while backing a legislative change that would make tech bosses accountable if their platform contributed to the serious harm, abuse or death of a child.

Last year, coroner rules schoolgirl Molly Russell dead “from the act of self-harming while suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content”.

The Labor shadow cabinet and lawmakers including Conservatives Bill Cash and Miriam Cates want social media companies to be held accountable for such incidents and are urging the government to change the Online Safety Act.

In its current form, the bill would only hold executives accountable for failing to notify regulator Ofcom, rather than corporate decisions that result in avoidable harm or sexual harassment.

The executive director of the NSPCC, who commissioned the YouGov research, said the legislation should provide for “bold, world-leading regulation that puts business to a standstill with senior management.”

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Culture Minister Michelle Donelan wrote an open letter to parents before Christmas, promising that social media companies would not be held solely responsible for illegal content on their platforms. however, any material that “could cause severe trauma” to children.

The letter outlined six measures the bill would take to crack down on social media platforms:

• Removal of illegal content, including child sexual abuse and terrorist content

• Protecting children from harmful and inappropriate content, such as cyberbullying or promoting eating disorders

• To impose legal duties on companies to enforce their own age limit, which is 13 for most

• Ensuring that companies take age-control measures to protect children from inappropriate content, Similar to a recent crackdown on porn sites in Louisiana

• Posts promoting self-harm will be made illegal

• Companies will be encouraged to post risk assessments on potential hazards to children on their sites.

Donelan said companies could face fines of up to £1 billion if found to be incompetent and their sites could be blocked in the UK.

His letter came after the law returned to parliament after multiple delaysHaving found itself the target of free speech campaigners, she worries that sweeping regulation could amount to censorship.

The bill is scheduled to be sent back to parliament on January 16.

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