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Epilepsy Society welcomes tough financial penalties on social media companies who fail to protect users

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Nicola Swanborough

Epilepsy Society welcomes tough financial penalties on social media companies who fail to protect users

A Government decision to impose tough financial penalties on social media companies that do not safeguard their users, has been welcomed by the Epilepsy Society.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden and Home Secretary Priti Patel will today announce the Government’s final decisions on new laws to make the UK a safer place to be online.

The full Government response to the Online Harms White Paper consultation will set out how the proposed legal duty of care on online companies will work in practice and gives them new responsibilities towards their users.

Epilepsy Society responds

Clare Pelham Chief Executive at the Epilepsy Society said: “We are pleased to see that the Government is showing a real commitment to hitting the social media companies hard in their shareholders’ pockets with tough financial penalties when they fail to safeguard their users.”

This year the Epilepsy Society and its followers have been bombarded with hundreds of flashing images on Twitter, deliberately targeting people with epilepsy with the intention of inducing a seizure. Several people have experienced seizures as a result of the attacks.

The charity has been campaigning for tougher regulation, financial penalties and changes to the law -Zach’s Law - to deal with malicious posts on social media. 

Global leadership

Clare Pelham continued: “The Government has been more than patient with social media companies. But there comes a time when enough is enough. We cannot fold our arms and sit idly by any longer while criminals assault people with epilepsy by targeting them with flashing images designed to give them seizures.

“This is real global leadership. We hope that where the UK leads other countries will follow, so that we can make online a safe place for people with epilepsy throughout the world.

“We applaud the Government’s  recognition of the significant physical and psychological harm that adults can suffer through online harms. It is no joke to experience fear every time you look at Instagram or Tik Tok that there might be a post that causes you physical injury. We urge the social media companies to work with the Epilepsy Society so that we can help them to safeguard their users from these hate-filled criminals.

“We look forward to the Online Harms Bill bringing the full force of the criminal law to bear on these wrongdoers in due course.”

Physical and psychological harm

Social media sites with the largest audiences and high-risk features, will be forced to set out and and enforce clear terms and conditions which explicitly state how they will handle content which is legal but could cause significant physical or psychological harm to adults. 

Ofcom is now confirmed as the regulator with the power to fine companies failing in their duty of care up to £18 million or ten per cent of annual global turnover, whichever is higher. It will have the power to block non-compliant services from being accessed in the UK. 


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