Fine social media companies that don’t take down illegal content, say UK MPs | world-news | Hindustan Times
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Fine social media companies that don’t take down illegal content, say UK MPs

A British Parliament committee recommended the government consult on escalating sanctions to include fines for companies which fail to remove the content within a strict time-frame.

world Updated: May 01, 2017 18:08 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Illegal material not taken down included terror recruitment videos and material encouraging child abuse.
Illegal material not taken down included terror recruitment videos and material encouraging child abuse.(iStockPhoto)

The British Parliament’s home affairs committee on Monday strongly criticised social media companies for failing to take down and take sufficiently seriously illegal content, saying they are “shamefully far” from taking sufficient action.

The influential committee recommended that the government consult on a system of escalating sanctions to include meaningful fines for social media companies which fail to remove illegal content within a strict time-frame.

The committee said in a report that social media companies that failed to proactively search for and remove illegal material should pay towards costs of the police doing so instead. It also wants the companies to publish regular reports on their safeguarding activity including the number of staff, complaints and action taken.

The committee said it found repeated examples of illegal material not being taken down after they had been reported, including terror recruitment videos for banned jihadi and neo-Nazi groups still live even after being reported by the committee; anti-semitic hate crime attacks on MPs even after being raised by MPs themselves; and material encouraging child abuse or sexual images of children, even after being reported by journalists.

Yvette Cooper, chair of the committee, said: “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. Yet repeatedly they have failed to do so. It is shameful.

“These are among the biggest, richest and cleverest companies in the world, and their services have become a crucial part of people’s lives. This isn’t beyond them to solve, yet they are failing to do so. They continue to operate as platforms for hatred and extremism without even taking basic steps to make sure they can quickly stop illegal material, properly enforce their own community standards, or keep people safe.”

The committee said it recognised the effort to tackle abuse on social media, such as publishing clear community guidelines, building new technologies and promoting online safety for example for schools and young people, but added that it “nowhere near enough is being done”.