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According to a recent article by the Guardian, a new digital watchdog will be set up with the power to impose fines upto 10% of global revenue. In the case of Facebook, this will be upto £10 billion.

Does the proposed legislation mention sanctions - such as prison sentences - against social media executives?

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    While it is, of course, Parliament that legislates, it is the Government that drafts the legislation, controls the Commons, and ultimately implements the law. Hence I'd suggest replacing "parliament" with "government" in the title. May 6, 2022 at 8:39
  • @Steve Melnikoff: It's parliament that is sovereign in British law. Hence I prefer my own wording. May 6, 2022 at 10:11

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It's not clear at this time, but "civil penalties" for technology executives are contemplated, albeit for the narrow case of impeding investigations. Quoth the BBC:

"Senior managers will face civil penalties if their firms fail to engage properly with requests for information," the government said.

However, it is unclear when exactly the changes will come into force, as the government has said the necessary legislation will be introduced "in due course".

Those civil penalties would presumably not include prison.

However, as noted by the questioner in the comments and answer, the revised draft version of the Online Safety Bill does contemplate criminal penalties for failure to cooperate with an investigation, if such failure involves intentional or reckless misrepresentation. Concretely:

Offence in relation to CSEA reporting

(1) A person commits an offence if, in purported compliance with a requirement under section 59— (a) the person provides information that is false in a material respect, and (b) at the time the person provides it, the person knows that it is false in a material respect or is reckless as to whether it is false in a material respect.

(2) A person who commits an offence under this section is liable— (a) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding the maximum summary term for either-way offences or a fine (or both); (b) on summary conviction in Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (or both); (c) on summary conviction in Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (or both); (d) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine (or both).

This also appears to apply to obstructing investigations under the law or failing to comply with people acting to enforce the law:

A person commits an offence if— (a) the person intentionally obstructs a person acting under this Schedule; (b) the person fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with any requirement imposed by a person acting under this Schedule; (c) in response to a requirement imposed by a person acting under this Schedule, the person provides information that is false in a material respect, knowing that it is false in a material respect or being reckless as to whether it is false in a material respect.

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  • -1: The proposed legislation does mention criminal offences and also prison sentences. See my answer. May 6, 2022 at 6:13
  • From your answer, it sounds like they could only end up in prison if they impeded the investigation and failed to pay the civil fines, though. Which is the case with failure to pay civil fines in general, no?
    – Obie 2.0
    May 6, 2022 at 6:20
  • When you mention the criminal offenses, it's pretty clear those apply to users from the later portion of your answer.
    – Obie 2.0
    May 6, 2022 at 6:24
  • @MoziburUllah - I have linked to your comment and edited my answer to address the portion of the draft that provides for criminal liability under certain circumstances.
    – Obie 2.0
    May 6, 2022 at 6:33
  • I asked specifically whether "the proposed legislation mentioned sanctions - such as prison - against social media executives". They do. You didn't. May 6, 2022 at 6:56
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According to The Independent, that the long awaited Online Safety Bill had been strengthened with:

the addition of new criminal offences such as revenge porn, hate crime, fraud, the sale of illegal illegal drugs or weapons, the promotion or facilitation of suicide, people smuggling and sexual exploitation.

Also three new criminal offences recommended by the Law Commission, have also been added to the bill:

The new offences cover communications that are sent to convey a threat of serious harm; those sent to cause harm without reasonable excuse; and those sent which are known to be false with the intention of causing non-trivial emotional, psychological or physical harm.

They also say that Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, has said in an interview with Times Radio that:

Under the new rules, senior executives of online platforms could end up in prison, if they do not act ...

Asked again if senior executives could find themselves in prison if they did not comply, she said, "absolutely."

However, this is disputed by the NSPCC. Their head of child safety has said:

despite the rhetoric, the governments current proposals mean tech bosses wouldn't be held personally liable for the harmful effects of their algorithms or failing to prevent grooming, and could only be prosecuted for failing to supply information to the regulator.

The maximum prison sentence if they fail to comply is two years. According to iNews, the draft bill was to originally

delay bringing in the power to make named individuals criminally liable for two years after the bill came into law to allow the sector to adjust.

But Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries ordered the deferral period to be cut down to two months to "strengthen penalties for wrongdoing from the outset."

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