Tech giants such as Google and Facebook may have to pay for measures to tackle cyber bullying, according to a UK government internet safety strategy published today.

The new proposals, part of a wider strategy to help the UK become the safest place in the world to be online, also include measures to crack down on trolling and under-age access to pornography.

The government’s Internet Safety Strategy proposes:

  • A new social media code of practice to see a joined-up approach to remove or address bullying, intimidating or humiliating online content
  • An industry-wide levy so social media companies and communication service providers contribute to raise awareness and counter internet harms​
  • An annual internet safety transparency report to show progress on addressing abusive and harmful content and conduct
  • And support for tech and digital startups to think safety first – ensuring that necessary safety features are built into apps and products from the very start

Karen Bradley, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said: “The Internet has been an amazing force for good, but it has caused undeniable suffering and can be an especially harmful place for children and vulnerable people.

“Behaviour that is unacceptable in real life is unacceptable on a computer screen. We need an approach to the Internet that protects everyone without restricting growth and innovation in the digital economy.

“Our ideas are ambitious – and rightly so. Collaboratively, government, industry, parents and communities can keep citizens safe online, but only by working together.”

The government is also to encourage social media firms to offer safety advice and tools to parents. Safety messages will also be built into online platforms.

David Wright, director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, commented: “As the national centre dedicated to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, the UK Safer Internet Centre, a partnership of three charities – Childnet, the Internet Watch Foundation and South West Grid for Learning – welcomes the Government’s Internet Safety Strategy, which reflects our own work and priorities.

“Technology plays a fundamental role in everyone’s lives presenting both opportunities and threats. Our aim, like this strategy, is to promote national collaboration around these issues to deliver positive change among children and young people across the UK – and those who support them – through education and increased awareness of the safe and responsible use of technology,” he concluded.

The news comes after the UK government encouraged social media companies to actively tackle extremist content posted on their platforms following a string of terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.