In a first for Britain, social media executives will be held responsible for antisemitism and racism on their platforms, according to The Times. New regulations due to be published this month will legislate to tighten regulatory control of abuse on social media, under the auspices of Ofcom, the communications watchdog. The rules will come into effect after the UK leaves the European Union, which is scheduled to happen on 31st January.
Under the new system, the Government expects to hold British senior management personally responsible for abuse, with each social media giant required to have at least one British-based director responsible for UK operations under a “statutory duty of care”. Technology firms are likely to be asked to provide the funding to ensure regulation is properly managed and penalties that social media companies may face are said to be “proportionate”.
However the report claims that stronger measures including calling on service providers to block websites or apps from being used in the UK have been dropped.
This follows a consultation launched under Theresa May’s government last summer into various proposals to regulate social media. This policy has in turn been adopted by Boris Johnson’s government which pledged to “legislate to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online — protecting children from online abuse and harms, protecting the most vulnerable from accessing harmful content, and ensuring there is no safe space for terrorists to hide online.” Codes of practice will be drawn up by Ofcom.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has long called for tougher regulations on social media sites and that social networks proactively search for and remove hate speech from their platforms. It is reassuring to hear that social media sites will be held responsible for cleaning up their own sites. It is vital that Ofcom ensures that complex hate crime on social media is properly identified and understood, and that antisemitism is carefully monitored.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has provided antisemitism training to Ofcom’s executives.