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Websites face heavy fines or being banned under new proposals to tackle "online harms"

Online sites could be fined or even blocked if they fail to tackle "online harms", under new proposals from the UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The government department's proposals could see an independent watchdog which would write a "code of practice" for tech companies and senior managers held liable for breaches of such a code.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said: "The era of self-regulation for online companies is over."

"Voluntary actions from industry to tackle online harms have not been applied consistently or gone far enough." 

In conversation with BBC Breakfast, Mr Wright said fines for breaching the code could be around 4% of a company's turnover. It has also been suggested that harmful websites could be blocked in the UK.

Critics say the plans could threaten freedom of speech.

The proposals come as the government tries to battle against "online harms", such as child abuse, terrorist propaganda, hate crimes and harassment. 

The proposals are now open to public consultation for 12 weeks on the government website.

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