LONDON: British MPs on Wednesday said social networking giant Facebook should face heavy fines if it withheld evidence that the platform had caused harm to users.
Damian Collins, a Conservative MP and chair of the joint committee on the draft online safety bill, said: “If they have important information like this and they kept that information from the regulator then I think they should be punished.
“There would be fines. The bill creates a duty of care. If there are harms being caused and a company is trying to hide that information from the regulator, then that would be quite a serious breach in duty of care,” he added.
The bill proposes fines of up to 10 percent of a company’s annual turnover, which in Facebook’s case would be around £6 billion ($8.27 billion).
Facebook is under political pressure following reports that the platform knew its subsidiary company, Instagram, was harming the mental health of teenage girls.
Leaked internal documents showed that 13 percent of British users and 6 percent of American users who have had suicidal thoughts actually traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram.
Social media firms are required under the draft bill to submit to Ofcom, the British communications watchdog, a risk assessment of content that causes harm to users.
The new revelation comes as social media platforms face increased criticism for failing to maintain online safety.
On Saturday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick accused tech giants of making it harder to identify and stop terrorists. She warned that the heavily relied upon end-to-end messaging encryption feature was making it “impossible in some cases” for the police to do their jobs.
And British Home Secretary Priti Patel recently launched the new Safety Tech Challenge Fund for technologies to keep children safe online, particularly to protect them from sex abuse.