Advertisers should raise abuse concerns with social media firms – minister

Media Minister John Whittingdale suggested firms would want to make sure they are ‘happy with the kind of content’ they might be linked to.

Advertisers should raise abuse concerns with social media firms – minister

Advertisers should put pressure on social media firms to clean up their act, Media Minister John Whittingdale suggested as the fallout continued over the online abuse aimed at England’s Euro 2020 stars.

Mr Whittingdale said the Government’s forthcoming Online Safety Bill will force tech giants to exercise a “greater duty of care” but suggested that businesses which advertise on the platforms can exert pressure now.

And he said there is a need for platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to take action themselves to tackle material which is “not just offensive but, in some cases, is harmful”.

MP portraits
Media Minister John Whittingdale said advertisers should put pressure on social media firms to clean up their act (House of Commons/PA)

In an interview with the PA news agency, Mr Whittingdale said: “There is an absence of regulation for the platforms at the moment and there is all sorts of content which we think is potentially harmful on those platforms.

“Racist abuse is an example, it isn’t the only type of content which is harmful.

“That is why the Government has been looking at how we should bring the platforms under the oversight of the regulator and to require them to exercise a greater duty of care.”

“So obviously I’m sure businesses will want to talk to platforms to make sure they are happy with the kind of content they might find themselves associated with.

Under the Government’s plans Ofcom will regulate harmful online content.

“It is for the platforms to take action but Ofcom will be making sure they are meeting the requirements which will be set out in the regulation,” Mr Whittingdale said.

The minister also said there is a “skewed” relationship between social media firms and “traditional” news outlets.

“The platforms are now the major providers of news, but of course that news is not news that they themselves have sourced. They are taking it from traditional news publishers like newspapers and broadcasters.

“And the relationship between the platforms and those publishers is skewed. There are a small number of very powerful platforms and we are concerned that they are behaving in an anti-competitive way.”

The new Digital Markets Unit will make sure platforms “are not exploiting their dominance” and ensure “there is a proper, fair relationship in the negotiations between the platforms and the publishers”.

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