The Reading Room

Warning for social media companies

Another day, another UK Commons home affairs select committee report, this latest one strongly criticizing social media companies over their failure to remove abusive and extremist content from the internet.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the like – were  doing “nowhere near enough” to combat inappropriate and illegal content, fumed the MPs.

They are worried by the prevalence of illegal material online, echoing concern among security services regarding the internet’s potential to encourage terrorism and other serious crimes, particularly those of a sexual nature.

The politicians suggest it should become a crime for social media giants to fail to remove dangerous and illegal content, but as even the Telegraph said in an opinion article on Monday “The committee concedes that framing a law might be difficult and there are issues of free speech and of definition to be considered.”

We’ve been in this territory before and seen how taxpayers’ money is spent by the millions in setting up a pageant of government inquiries, evidence taking sessions, massive reports, soundbite condemnations and lengthy recommendations, such as the fallout from phone hacking and the Leveson Inquiry.

Regulating UK newspapers is a lot easier than trying to legislate the global ‘wild west’ of social media and the internet, but campaigners like Fiyaz Mughal of anti-Muslim hate monitoring and support service Tell MAMA, call the select committee report ‘a breath of fresh air’ and in a HuffPost article this week he spelled out how little the social media companies themselves have done to tackle the problems.

The big social media companies were quoted this week as saying they were and would be doing more to tackle the problems and were working more closely with governments on solutions. Let’s see what happens.

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