Social media giants face £17m fines if they break tough new code to keep kids safe online

SOCIAL media giants and gaming sites will face huge fines if they break a tough new code to keep kids safe online.

A fresh set of rules is being drawn up by the UK's data watchdog which will force firms to take action or be punished.

They will have to turn off location settings for kids and create tough privacy settings to provide a baseline of rules to stop kids from seeing horrors online or being put at risk.

Social media giants including Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat will have to abide by the new rules, alongside online game sides, education websites and streaming services like Netflix.

The new code from the Information Commissioner's office is set to be introduced by autumn 2021, after MPs approve it.

Under similar GDPR rules, companies can face fines of up to £17m, or four per cent of their global turnover.

The dad of 14-year-old Molly Russell, who killed herself after watching horrific content online, welcomed the new code.

Ian believes Molly's use of Instagram was a factor in her death in 2017, after they found suicide content on her account.

He said: "Although small steps have been taken by some social media platforms, there seems little significant investment and a lack of commitment to a meaningful change, both essential steps required to create a safer world wide web.

"The Age Appropriate Design Code demonstrates how the technology companies might have responded effectively and immediately."

Facebook said it welcomed the news, saying: "The safety of young people is central to our decision-making, and we've spent over a decade introducing new features and tools to help everyone have a positive and safe experience on our platforms, including recent updates such as increased Direct Message privacy settings on Instagram."

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said future generations would be "astonished to think that we ever didn't protect kids online."

She added: "I think it will be as ordinary as keeping children safe by putting on a seat belt."

She said that existing GDPR data laws would be used as a template to create a baseline playing field across the internet.

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