May 1st 2017
The Home Affairs Select Committee has issued a report damning social networks for lack of responsibility when it comes to tackling illegal and dangerous content.
It says that hate speech, terror recruitment videos and sexual images of children take too long to be removed, exposing users to shocking and otherwise inappropriate content and enabling propagation of such content which could otherwise be avoided. A number of examples of hate content were cited in the report.
The report concedes that efforts had been made by the networks to tackle such content, but "nowhere near enough is being done". It adds that the government should make sites pay to police content. It had found “repeated examples of social media companies failing to remove illegal content when asked to do so", adding that the largest ones were "big enough, rich enough and clever enough" to resolve the problem and that it was "shameful" that they had not used the same expertise to protect their users as their own income.
The cross-party committee of MPs considered it "unacceptable" that it was down to users to report illegal and dangerous content, accusing them of "outsourcing" the role "at zero expense", with the networks expecting public funds to be spent in policing them against abusive and extremist content.
The committee’s recommendations include:
– Government consultation on requiring social media firms to contribute to the cost of the police counter-terrorism internet referral unit
– Government consultation on "meaningful fines" for social networks which failed to remove illegal content within a strict timeframe
– An urgent review by social networks on their community standards and their interpretation and implementation
The committee’s chairperson, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper MP, said that the networks’ failure to deal with such material is a disgrace. She added that the committee’s previous, broader enquiry into hate crime had paused when the general election had been called.
Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, commented that she expected to see social media companies take "early and effective action" and promised to study the committee's recommendations.
Facebook Policy Director Simon Milner said in a statement: "We agree with the committee that there is more we can do to disrupt people wanting to spread hate and extremism online."
Only last week, NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless described internet companies' voluntary regulations on child protection as being "not up to scratch".