UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries warned Facebook Inc. and its chiefs are on course for criminal prosecution for failing to reign in the harmful effects of its platform.

“Why would we give them two years to change what they can change today?” said Dorries. “Remove your harmful algorithms today and you will not be subjected — named individuals — to criminal liability and prosecution.”

Dorries was speaking with members of the joint committee in charge of drafting the bill on Thursday. The UK is currently examining a draft of its Online Safety Bill, which is set to be managed by regulator Ofcom and put forward for approval next month.

“I’m looking at three to six months for criminal liability,” she added. “I think it’s nonsense that platforms have been given two years to make themselves ready for what would be criminal action. They know what they’re doing wrong now.”

A spokesman for Facebook in the UK didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Online Safety Bill will attempt to impose accountability for illegal or potentially harmful content such as material promoting terrorism or spreading disinformation about Covid-19. Companies could be fined as much as 10% of annual global revenue if they breach regulations.

“Mark Zuckerberg, Nick Clegg and others who are wanting to take off into the metaverse, my advice is stay in the real world,” added Dorries. “You will be accountable to this act.”

Dorries was also skeptical of Meta Platforms Inc. — the new name for Facebook’s parent company — and its recently announced plans to hire 10,000 people in Europe to build out its vision for a “metaverse.”

“Rebranding does not work,” she said. “When harm is caused, we’re coming after it. Put those engineers now onto abiding by your terms and conditions and removing your harmful algorithms.”

Photograph: Platforms like Facebook and YouTube have come under intense scrutiny for failing to do enough to police hate speech. Photo credit: Uli Deck/Getty Images/picture alliance.

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