July 27, 2020
The take-away point from the report is that the DCMS Committee has called for the Government to appoint the new Online Harms Regulator now. The report finds that online misinformation about Covid-19 was allowed to spread virulently across social media without the protections offered by legislation, promised by the Government 15 months ago. The report also details evidence on a range of harms from dangerous hoax treatments to conspiracy theories that led to attacks on 5G engineers.
The Online Harms White Paper, published in April 2019, proposed a duty of care on tech companies and an independent Online Harms Regulator, both key recommendations from the predecessor DCMS Committee.
In the report, MPs voice new concerns that the delayed legislation will not address the harms caused by misinformation and disinformation, which is a serious omission that would ignore the lessons of the Covid crisis. The report finds that tech companies use business models that dis-incentivise action against misinformation while affording opportunities to bad actors to monetise misleading content. As a result the public is reliant on the good will of tech companies or the “bad press” they attract to compel them to act.
The DCMS Committee calls for the Government to make a final decision on the appointment of the regulator now.
Julian Knight MP, Chair of the DCMS Committee, said: “We are calling on the Government to name the Regulator now and get on with the ‘world-leading’ legislation on social media that we’ve long been promised.
“The proliferation of dangerous claims about Covid-19 has been unstoppable. The leaders of social media companies have failed to tackle the infodemic of misinformation. Evidence that tech companies were able to benefit from the monetisation of false information and allowed others to do so is shocking. We need robust regulation to hold these companies to account.
“The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated that without due weight of the law, social media companies have no incentive to consider a duty of care to those who use their services.” To read the Committee’s news release in full and for a link to the report, click here.