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When it comes to harmful, violent or graphic material, social media firms like Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and TikTok have largely been allowed to regulate themselves. Those firms have generally defended their records in doing so, insisting the vast majority of content like that is quickly taken down. However, the government believes that isn’t enough and new powers are to be given to media regulator Ofcom to police their actions.
It’s thought firms that host user-generated content, including comments, forums and video-sharing, will have to comply with a new legal “duty of care”. They’ll need to ensure illegal content, like child abuse imagery and extremist material, is removed quickly and will be expected to “minimise the risks” of it appearing at all.
It’s not clear yet what penalties Ofcom – which already regulates television and radio broadcasters – will be able to impose, but campaign groups, including children’s charity the NSPCC, have welcomed the news.
Calls for action grew after the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell and the Christchurch terror attack. Read more about the role of social media in the latter incident here.
From one regulator to another… energy overseer Ofgem says gas and electricity customers will automatically receive compensation of £30 from May if their switch to a new provider goes wrong. More than six million people switched last year and Ofgem says the new rules should give “peace of mind” to those shopping around. Payments will be made if the switch is not completed within 15 working days, or if other aspects of the process fail to run smoothly.
Animals in need
The plight of wildlife caught up in Australia’s bushfires captured global attention, and now the country says 113 animal species need “urgent help” after their numbers and habitats were devastated. Koalas and wallabies, as well as bird, fish and frog species are among those needing the most help. In a bit of good news, there appear to have been no extinctions, but some creatures, like the Kangaroo Island dunnart, are perilously close. Kangaroo Island has been likened to Noah’s Ark for its diversity – read more on the fires’ impact there. And find out how we work out how many animals have been lost.
The 2021 census could be the last one ever carried out in the UK, according to the national statistician. Costs have ballooned – the bill for next year’s in England and Wales alone is expected to be £906m, nearly double the figure for 2011. The 10-yearly census provides valuable population information to help councils and the government plan services, and Prof Sir Ian Diamond says he is looking at cheaper alternatives – for example, using a combination of Ordnance Survey, GP lists, council tax records and driving licence details.
China and the virus that threatens everything
By John Sudworth, BBC News, Beijing
There’s still a great deal we don’t know about 2019-nCoV, to give the virus its temporary name. Before it took its final fatal leap across the species barrier to infect its first human, it is likely to have been lurking inside the biochemistry of an – as yet unidentified – animal. That animal is thought to have been kept in a Wuhan market, where wildlife was traded illegally. Beyond that, the scientists trying to map its deadly trajectory from origin to epidemic can say little more with any certainty.
But while they continue their urgent, vital work to determine the speed at which it spreads and the risks it poses, one thing is beyond doubt – Covid-19 has shaken Chinese society and politics to the core.
What the papers say
The green light for HS2 makes several front pages. The Financial Times supports Boris Johnson’s decision, arguing Britain is “in dire need” of major infrastructure investment, but it believes the management of the scheme urgently needs to be overhauled. The Daily Mail says the PM had to push ahead or “his term of office would have begun with a massive climb-down”. The Daily Express calls it “his biggest gamble yet”. Elsewhere, the papers feature large photos of Steve Walsh – the businessman linked to 11 cases of the coronavirus in Britain and France. The Daily Mirror’s headline is “Don’t turn me into a scapegoat”, and its leader expresses sympathy for Mr Walsh, because “nobody deliberately catches or passes on coronavirus”. Finally, the Sun calls it a “sickening outrage” that former police officers in Northern Ireland face being investigated by a commission set up to examine allegations of “non-criminal police misconduct” during the Troubles.
Sanders Left-wing senator narrowly takes the New Hampshire primary
‘Gagging’ Universities using NDAs to silence students
Care workers Demand for “fair” overnight pay
Squabbling mice Photo tops “people’s poll”
If you see one thing today
If you listen to one thing today
If you read one thing today
Today Facebook is due to begin a £9bn court battle against US tax authorities.
Evening The NME Awards ceremony will be held in London, with Billie Eilish, Slowthai and Stormzy all up for multiple gongs.
On this day
1994 One of the world’s best-known paintings, The Scream by Edvard Munch, is stolen from a museum in Norway.