U.K. minister warns that rebranding won't stop tech execs from criminal charges

U.K. minister warns that rebranding won't stop tech execs from criminal charges
According to CNBC, U.K. minister Nadine Dorries is warning tech firms and executives that changing the names of their companies won't stop them from facing criminal sanctions. The warning is aimed directly at Facebook which recently changed its corporate name to Meta. Dorries, Britain’s minister for digital, culture, media, and sport, told lawmakers Thursday at a hearing on the Online Safety Bill, "When harm is caused, we are coming after it."

U.K. Bill would place social media executives at risk of facing criminal sanctions

Facebook's name change (which only affects the name of the company, not the social media site itself) comes after former employee turned whistleblower Frances Haugen testified in front of the U.K. Parliament last month and said that lawmakers on the continent have only a "slight window of time" to stop the spread of hate speech and contentious content. Haugen also testified in front of U.S. lawmakers in October stating that Facebook puts profits ahead of doing the right thing.

Explaining what to expect from Meta, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, "The next platform will be even more immersive — an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it. We call this the metaverse, and it will touch every product we build." The executive defined the metaverse as "a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users."

Meta will hire 10,000 engineers in the U.K. to help build the metaverse and Minister Dorries said that those extra workers should be given the task of "abiding by your terms and conditions and removing your harmful algorithms."

The U.K. is looking to fine social media companies that help to spread illegal and harmful content 10% of global annual revenue or £18 million ($24.2 million), whichever is higher. Executives at these social media firms could face criminal action within two years if they fail to stop the dissemination of what would be considered content that is against the law.

But Dorries is looking to move faster against executives who lead a company that spread negative content. "It will not be two years," she said. "I’m looking at three to six months for criminal liability."

Tech giants have said that they are investing both their time and effort into making their platforms safer. Meta says that it has 40,000 employees working on platform safety.

In an article published in the Daily Mail, the minister wrote, "Online hate has poisoned public life. It’s often unbearable. And it has to end. We have the legislation to do it. Our Online Safety Bill is one of the most ambitious pieces of legislation in the internet age. No other country has published a Bill that will go so far to make big tech accountable for the content on their platforms, and for the way they promote it."

U.K. Minister says that the Bill will end anonymous online abuse

She added, "First, this Bill will force tech giants to swiftly identify and remove illegal content. Secondly, platforms will have to prevent children from accessing harmful content like pornography, and enforce age limits. We’ve worked with the Law Commission to advise on how we could expand the definition of illegal content to include the promotion of self-harm – something I feel very strongly about."

The minister says that the Bill will surely end anonymous online abuse. "The question of anonymity has dominated the conversation about online abuse over the past week," Dorries wrote in that piece for the Daily Mail. "Rest assured, this Bill will end anonymous abuse, because it will end abuse, full stop."

Facebook is still known for allowing  Steve Bannon's Cambridge Analytica to obtain personal data from 87 million Facebook subscribers. This information was reportedly used by the Trump campaign to decide where to place ads during the 2016 presidential campaign.
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