Social media companies have come under fire from MPs for putting profit ahead of safety when it comes to the removal of extremist content. The same MPs believe social media firms should face fines for their failings.
In a report from the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, social media giants have been dubbed ‘shameful’, amongst other things, for their lack of effort in dealing with illegal content. The Committee believes these companies should be held as responsible for the content on their sites as football clubs are for the behaviour of their fans under Section 25 of the Police Act 1996.
The report also fires a shot directly toward Google, regarding its desire to make profit by any means. It says: “We note that Google can act quickly to remove videos from YouTube when they are found to infringe copyright rules, but that the same prompt action is not taken when the material involves hateful or illegal content. There may be some lasting financial implications for Google’s advertising division from this episode; however the most salient fact is that one of the world’s largest companies has profited from hatred and allowed itself to be a platform from which extremists have generated revenue.”
Furthermore, the report states its belief that social media companies should be more proactive in the way that they deal with offensive content. As it stands, for the most part, social media firms rely on users to report content they deem inappropriate. This content is then reviewed by staff – a review process that is also heavily criticised for its speed.
Despite this, the report does acknowledge the work of some social media sites in developing technologies to contribute toward a more proactive system.
Overall, the report could be damning for social media companies. If the UK government decide to enforce fines on the sites, we could be seeing hefty sums of money being paid out in the UK courts – and may also lead to other countries following suit.