MP’s want to fine social networks that are slow to remove hate speech

Social networking sites are "shamefully far" from from tackling illegal and dangerous content, says the Home Affairs Committee which wants to introduce "meaningful fines" for companies that fail to remove illegal content "within a strict timeframe".

The report, published on Monday, accuses Google, Facebook and Twitter of not doing all they can to curb the spread of hate, abuse and extremism online. While it commends the companies for their efforts thus far, it says that "nowhere near enough" is being done: "There are too many examples of social media companies being made of aware of illegal material yet failing to remove it, or to do so in a timely way."

The committee suggests that the government introduces "a system of escalating sanctions" that would result in fines for social media companies which fail to meet the rules. This would be similar to a new law being considered in Germany that includes fines of up to 50 million euros. 

The group also has suggested that the social media sites in question pay for the monitoring and investigation work carried out by the Police on their platforms. Drawing a comparision to football clubs that pay for policing at their stadiums, it is argued that tech firms should do the same online.

Another comparison made by the report is to copyright infringment. It is suggested that there are effective tools in place to take down copyright infringing content and that the same level of identification should be possible for videos that express and promote hate and extremism with user-submitted reports being insufficient. "They are, in effect, outsourcing the vast bulk of their safeguarding responsibilities at zero expense," the committee says. "We believe that it is unacceptable that social media companies are not taking greater responsibility for identifying illegal content themselves."

"It is in everyone’s interest, including the social media companies themselves, to find ways to reduce pernicious and illegal material," the group continues. "Transparent performance reports, published regularly, would be an effective method to drive up standards radically, and we hope it would also encourage competition between platforms to find innovative solutions to these persistent problems."

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