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Tech bosses could face criminal charges for harm online, warns UK minister | Online abuse

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Mark Zuckerberg and other tech executives could face criminal prosecution if they don’t tackle harmful algorithms, Britain’s Culture Secretary has said, as part of government proposals to tackle online abuse .

Nadine Dorries also said internet trolls who threaten to ‘seriously injure’ or publish damaging misinformation could face prison terms, amid a marked escalation of penalties in the Security Bill. in line.

Dorries reserved her strongest warning for executives from the owner of Facebook, Meta, and other tech companies. She told MPs and her peers on Thursday that in addition to the proposed powers of the bill to impose fines on companies of up to 10% of their income if they do not protect users, there would be also criminal penalties.

“But there is also the criminal responsibility of individuals. And I think people like Mark Zuckerberger [sic] and Nick Clegg [a Meta vice-president] and others who want to fly into the metaverse, my advice would be to stay in the real world because this… bill is going to be an act very, very soon and it’s the algorithms that do the wrong, and… you will be responsible for this act.

Speaking to the entire tech industry, Dorries said, “Kill your harmful algorithms today and you won’t be subject – named people – to criminal liability and prosecution.”

Dorries was addressing a joint parliamentary committee reviewing the bill, which seeks to impose due diligence on tech companies – with particular emphasis on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and video platforms such as YouTube and TikTok – to protect users from harmful content.

The bill contains provisions for deferred power to impose criminal penalties on executives if they fail to respond to requests for information from the communications watchdog Ofcom accurately and in a timely manner.

Dorries said the power could be granted within three to six months of the bill being passed, rather than the two years originally envisioned, and said criminal penalties would be extended to cover failure to comply with algorithms that disseminate harmful content.

“[Platforms] find out what they are doing wrong. They’ve got a chance to make it right now. Why would we give them two years… to change what they can change today, ”she said.

Dorries was scathing about Facebook’s rebranding and its investment plans for the Metaverse, a virtual world where people can live their social and professional lives through avatars or animated digital representations of themselves.

Referring to Meta’s recent announcement that it would hire 10,000 people in the EU to help build a Metaverse, she said, “They put ten, twenty thousand engineers on the Metaverse. And rebranding is not working. When harm is done, we follow it. Put those ten or twenty thousand now to meet your terms and conditions and remove your harmful algorithms, because if you don’t, this bill will be waterproof. I am looking at three to six months for criminal liability.

Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, has come under heavy political and regulatory pressure on both sides of the Atlantic after whistleblower Frances Haugen’s revelations. The former Facebook employee explained how the company was aware that its platforms were harming users and spreading misinformation.

Zuckerberg said Haugen’s claims that the company put profit before the safety of people were “just not true.” Meta has been contacted for comment.

Dorries also said she was prepared to adopt the recommendations of the Law Commission – an independent body which reviews laws in England and Wales – to bring criminal proceedings for messaging or messaging offenses which “Transmit a threat of serious harm”; publishing false information – “false communications” – intended to cause significant emotional, psychological or physical damage; and sending messages or messages intended to cause harm without reasonable excuse.

The Law Commission proposals suggested prison terms ranging from two to 10 years for offenses, with the maximum of that range applying to death threats.

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