British MPs have called for new rules to impose hefty fines and sanctions on social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, who fail to remove terrorist and criminal content from their platforms. The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has said in a report released this week that it is “shockingly easy” to find terrorist material online and companies should now face multi-million pound fines and sanctions unless they begin taking robust action.
The committee, headed by former Labour Cabinet minister Yvette Cooper, called on British Prime Minister Theresa May to punish social media companies who fail to remove criminal content after its investigation found they are “shamefully far” from tackling terrorist and criminal postings properly. “Social media companies’ failure to deal with illegal and dangerous material online is a disgrace. They have been asked repeatedly to come up with better systems to remove illegal material such as terrorist recruitment or online child abuse,” Cooper said.
The committee said it was “completely irresponsible and indefensible” that online companies do not take down banned material as soon as it is posted and warned that multi-million pound fines should be introduced to force them to take it seriously.
The committee of MPs said Google, Facebook and Twitter should be forced to do more to take their role in preventing the spread of terrorism and paedophilia seriously. “Social media companies rely on their users to report extremist and hateful content for review by moderators. They are, in effect, outsourcing the vast bulk of their safeguarding responsibilities at zero expense,” the report said.
“We believe that it is unacceptable that social media companies are not taking greater responsibility for identifying illegal content themselves. In the UK, the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) monitors social media companies for terrorist material. “That means that multi-billion pound companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter are expecting the taxpayer to bear the costs of keeping their platforms and brand reputations clean of extremism,” it said. UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd welcomed the report and said its recommendations were being studied carefully.
“We have made it very clear that we will not tolerate the internet being used as a place for terrorists to promote their vile views, or use social media platforms to weaponise the most vulnerable people in our communities,” Rudd said. “We will continue to push the internet companies to make sure they deliver on their commitments to further develop technical tools to identify and remove terrorist propaganda and to help smaller companies to build their capabilities. I will expect to see early and effective action,” she said.