On making tech companies responsible and liable, the Government agrees with the Committee that there is a need for a new regulatory framework for social media companies, with a statutory Duty of Care to protect users and Codes of Practice to ensure companies meet their legal responsibilities, as set out in its White Paper on Online Harms. The Government has also agreed with the Committee’s recommendation on the ability to impose substantial fines when breaches occur.
The Committee is, however, “disappointed” that the Government has rejected its call to create a new category of tech company that is neither a platform, nor publisher, which would allow for a tightening of tech companies’ responsibilities. The Government also failed to address the Committee’s call for a detailed investigation into Facebook’s practices.
As for changing the rules on political campaigning, the Committee says it welcomes action by the Government on its recommendation for a comprehensive audit of the advertising market on social media. The Committee notes that the Government’s White Paper on Online Harms draws on the evidence it presented for greater transparency of online political campaigning with a code of practice to tackle disinformation.
The Government has also announced plans for a digital imprint on political advertising to be introduced this year.
As for foreign interference, the Government says it supports the Committee’s recommendation that social media companies be open and transparent when foreign interference has taken place on their sites, accepting that disinformation is a threat to the values and principles of the UK. However, the Committee notes that the Government’s Response fails to mention any specific action around foreign influence in democratic processes, despite the Committee’s recommendation for a review of current legislation.
To read the Committee’s comments and to access the Response in full, click here.