CIPR calls for debate on online safety bill proposals

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has warned that plans to accelerate the process of prosecuting tech executives by the UK government for online harms has lacked debate and may have a perverse effect on accountability.

Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, outlined the proposals for the government’s Online Safety Bill to introduce criminal sanctions within three to six months of coming into force, as opposed to the previous time of two years. The government is expected to introduce the bill in early 2022.

The CIPR has previously welcomed moves to introduce new legislation to regulate social media companies and calls for any news law to address this in a way that allows them to keep pace with technological advances and to a clear set of standards expected of any other kind of business.

Trust in the technology and platforms we use to share information is crucial and, regrettably, in low supply. The big tech companies themselves have called for regulation and it is vital that this is done effectively and that they are held to account. Switching the focus to personal liability on top of the existing financial penalties and transparency reports may play a vital role in changing company cultures and ultimately protecting online users.

As we have previously argued, accountability and effective enforcement are required, but what we are yet to see is a debate on how this approach would work in practice, in what instances, and whether it would have the perverse effect of making prosecutions harder and less likely to succeed.

CIPR President, Mandy Pearse Chart PR, FCIPR

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