Social media companies could face hefty fines if they fail to protect children and young people on their platforms under strict new rules proposed by Labour.
The party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, will today give a speech saying the digital market has been “distorted” and outlining plans to ensure sites have a legal duty of care over their users.
Watson will back the creation of a new regulator with the power to fine social media firms up to four per cent of their global turnover if they fall foul of these responsibilities.
“For the duty of care to be effective we need penalties that seriously affect companies’ bottom lines,” he will say.
The figure is in line with current penalties under data protection laws, and could lead to fines worth billions of dollars.
The shadow culture secretary is set to propose a new Digital Bill of Rights granting citizens greater control over how their personal data is collected and monetised.
In addition, Labour would consider breaking up tech giants, which Watson describes as “data monopolies”, amid fears their size is impacting competition.
“The scale of the largest companies is rightly the subject of scrutiny. We should take seriously the calls to break them up if it is in the public interest,” he will say.
The comments will pile more pressure on firms such as Facebook, which have been hit with growing criticism amid safety concerns and the use of customer data.
Yesterday digital minister Margot James said the government's upcoming white paper will unveil new laws to ensure social media sites remove illegal content and prioritise the protection of their users.
Watson is also expected to outline new rules, known as digital democracy guarantees, to protect democracy from online misinformation and extremism.
“Digital platforms are ideally suited to propagandists peddling bigotry and division to the disillusioned,” he will say at an event in Whitechapel today.
Under the plans, tech firms will need to ensure all political advertisers targeting British citizens are located in the UK and to label clearly all automated accounts.
Tech firms would also be legally required to remove illegal content such as hate speech and calls for violence.
The comments come as Facebook’s head of global affairs, Sir Nick Clegg, has been asked to appear in front of a parliamentary committee to give evidence in an inquiry into the harassment of MPs on social media.