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Ofcom to create tech hub and new jobs in Manchester

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Communications regulator Ofcom has announced plans to open a new technology hub in Manchester, creating up to 150 new jobs by 2025.

The announcement comes as the organisation prepares to become the regulator for internet companies under the government’s proposed Online Safety Bill.

Ofcom said it wanted to draw on Manchester’s reputation as a centre for technology and innovation as it sought recruits to help prepare for the new online regulation.

The new hub is expected to be operational by summer 2021, with the new roles created to offer digital and technical expertise.

“We’re delighted to be preparing for a new digital and technology hub in Manchester,” Ofcom chief executive Melanie Dawes said. “We want to tap into the huge array of tech, digital and data talent in the city as we prepare for pioneering new work around online safety and security.”

Ofcom said it was also expanding its operations in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh as part of efforts to offer a range of roles across the remit of its work.

Late last year, the government confirmed it intended to appoint Ofcom as the regulator for online harms in the UK as part of the Online Safety Bill, which will introduce tighter regulation for tech and internet companies around harmful content, with penalties for those who breach a duty of care to their users.

The bill is expected before Parliament by the end of the year, having been shaped by the government's response to the Online Harms White Paper published in late 2020. It is expected to target a range of online harms, from child exploitation to terrorist propaganda.

According to the government, online platforms which fail their duty of care to users, such as by not removing dangerous content, could be slapped with multimillion-pound fines and even a ban in the UK.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said that the proposed Online Safety Bill will usher in a “new age of accountability” for online platforms.

A survey conducted on behalf of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), published earlier this month, showed that the vast majority of UK adults are in favour of imposing sanctions on tech firms to tackle child abuse.

Nine out of 10 respondents (90 per cent) in the YouGov poll backed tougher legal requirements for tech firms to detect crimes, such as grooming, on their platforms.

Seventy-eight per cent of those polled also favoured prosecuting senior managers of social media companies if they consistently fail to protect children.

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