Eurolink Blog

21Jul

Coronavirus lies spreading online due to lack of UK law...

A group of MPs has come together to warn of harmful content spreading online about Covid-19, simply because the UK does not regulate social media in any way, and that tech firms and platforms cannot be left to self-regulate. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is urging the government to publish a draft copy of their promised legislation by the autumn, despite a suggestion that the "Online Harms Bill" might not actually come into force until 2024.

Chair of the committee and MP, Julian Knight comments "We still haven't seen correct legislative architecture put in place, and we are still relying on social media companies' consciences. This just is not good enough. Our legislation is not in any way fit for purpose, and we're still waiting. What I've seen so far has just been quite a lot of delay."

As part of their report, the Committee has called for the recommendations published last April in the Online Harms Paper to be made into law, along with a "duty of care" set out to force tech companies to protect their users, and a regulatory body set up for enforcement purposes. It has also highlighted that delayed legislation, combined with social media firms' advertising-led business models that encourages the spread of misinformation, does not address the current harms being caused by misinformation, including those related to fake coronavirus cures, 5G technology, vaccinations, and pandemic conspiracies.

The government has already stated that these laws will be introduced "as soon as possible", but the House of Lords committee who looked at the legislation last month highlighted that it is unlikely to come into effect for three or four years yet. 

The Committee has been quick to highlight that this is not a freedom of speech issue but a public health issue.

What do you think? Should social media content and the platforms be regulated?

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