Regulators around the world are shaping up for a social media crackdown

Regulators from around the world are set to meet to discuss how people can be better protected from harmful content on social media sites.

A conference convened by British communications regulator Ofcom will be held next year, announced as its Chief Executive Sharon White said there is a "standards lottery" where TV shows are regulated, but content on Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites is not.

In a speech given to the U.K.'s Royal Television Society (RTS) on Tuesday, White revealed that four in five people Ofcom surveyed had concerns about going online. Children's exposure to inappropriate content, or minors being bullied or exploited was found to be the main worry.

"The broadcasting and online worlds are competing under different conditions, even as the online world takes up an ever-greater share of our time. This has profound consequences for viewers — especially for children, who may well not distinguish between the two," White said, according to an online transcript of her speech.

Sharon White, Chief Executive of the U.K.'s communications regulator Ofcom
Ofcom
Sharon White, Chief Executive of the U.K.'s communications regulator Ofcom

"Without even knowing it, viewers are watching the same content, governed by different regulation in different places, or by none at all. This is a standards lottery," she added.

The conference, set to be held in the first half of 2019, will gather international regulators to look at how global social media sites operate. "Our experience so far of these debates suggests that cooperation and coordination between independent regulators could produce better results in tackling the behavior of global players," Ofcom said in its "Addressing Harmful Content Online" report.

White said that "Choose your screen and take your chances" is not a helpful message to viewers, considering the lack of rules governing social media. She added that the wrong type of regulation could undermine freedom of expression but that "internet regulation can recognize the pace of change online." When it comes to unmoderated content — such as online trolls — companies might be fined for a failure to address it quickly.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have hired moderators to review content, and Twitter was reported to be suspending 1 million accounts per day in a July article in The Washington Post. Shares fell by as much as 9.7 percent after the report was published. In the same month, the three companies appeared before Congress to address claims of conservative censorship.

The U.K. government is in the process of creating laws to protect people from harm online and is working on a white paper detailing its recommendations that will be published later this year. Meanwhile, the European Commission is drafting rules that would force companies to remove terrorist content within an hour of it being posted online.