Social media bosses ‘should face prison for illegal content’

Mark Zuckerberg will probably not like what the UK’s police watchdog has just recommended (Picture: Getty)

Social media bosses like Mark Zuckerberg should face being locked up for hosting illegal content on their sites, a top officer has said.

Sir Tom Winsor, the Chief inspector of the constabulary, says the government should use the upcoming Online Safety Bill to give police and prosecutors power to launch criminal investigations against Big Tech.

In his annual assessment of policing, Sir Tom railed against the lack of action taken against social media companies in the UK.

‘They do it in the United States,’ Sir Tom told Sky News.

‘So why not here? CEOs fear the prospect of standing in a courtroom dock far more than a fine.’

He added: ‘Some things on the internet are beyond the imagination of almost everyone.

‘We wouldn’t tolerate that on our streets, in our theatres or on television, so why tolerate them on a telephone in the hands of a child?’

Sir Tom Winsor is the current chief inspector of the constabulary (Picture: Getty)

The chief inspector also criticised the government for not supplying enough funding for the ‘continuing failing mental health system’, which he believes can put more demands on police to intervene, or drive sufferers into crime.

He said the government’s next spending review ‘will provide an opportunity to
put right many of the problems in policing’.

He added: ‘That commitment and professionalism needs to be equalled by other public sector agencies, who must do much more.’

Sir Tom also cited an increased need to vet police recruits and ban law-breaking officers, in the wake of the ex-PC Wayne Couzens, who admitted the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

He said poor vetting procedures could risk infiltration by officers with extremist or racist views, or those with criminal convictions.

‘On occasion, police recruitment vetting processes identify applicants’ connections with organised crime groups that try to infiltrate the police,’ he said.

‘In too many cases, the system fails. This can have catastrophic consequences.’

One way of solving this, Sir Tom suggests, is putting the force’s best detectives in the police’s professional standards departments, to help overcome a culture of reluctance when it comes to investigating colleagues.

He said: ‘Police corruption will always be with us, but it needs to be got down to the irreducible minimum.

‘Vetting is of enormous importance. It is important that people who want to come into the police are properly assessed, not in terms of just the intellectual and physical capacity, but their attitude, inclinations and their motivation.

‘If recruits, during their two-year probationary period, are displaying tendencies towards rage, violence, a liking for the exercise of coercive control of their fellow citizens, that needs to be recognised and properly dealt with.’

According to Home Office data, 152 investigations were started into English and Welsh police officers and staff last year.

It resulted in 68 officers either admitting their crimes or being found guilty, while 32 were acquitted, one was cautioned, and 14 had their cases dropped.

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