MPs have demanded that tech firms be fined tens of millions of pounds for failing to remove ‘hateful’ material from their websites.
An inquiry by the Home Affairs Committee, which was launched after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox during the European Union referendum campaign, said companies such as Facebook and Google were failing to keep users “safe” by not immediately removing content MPs deemed “extremist”.
In the report, which is due to be released Monday but has been previewed by The Guardian, the influential Commons committee said tech giants are quick to remove material which carries commercial risk, such as copyright infringement, but not that which is deemed “hateful”.
“Social media companies currently face almost no penalties for failing to remove illegal content,” stated the influential committee in its report.
“We recommend that the government consult on a system of escalating sanctions, to include meaningful fines for social media companies which fail to remove illegal content within a strict timeframe.”
The committee’s chair, Labour MP Yvette Cooper, said: “Social media companies’ failure to deal with illegal and dangerous material online is a disgrace.
“They have been asked repeatedly to come up with better systems to remove illegal material such as terrorist recruitment or online child abuse. Yet repeatedly they have failed to do so. It is shameful.
“These are among the biggest, richest and cleverest companies in the world, and their services have become a crucial part of people’s lives. This isn’t beyond them to solve, yet they are failing to do so. They continue to operate as platforms for hatred and extremism without even taking basic steps to make sure they can quickly stop illegal material, properly enforce their own community standards, or keep people safe …”
Last month Labour’s David Winnick told representatives from the tech giants he would be “ashamed” to work for their companies.
Material the senior Labour MP said he found it particularly “objectionable” that social media companies had failed to censor included an image showing a dog in the vicinity of a praying Muslim, and a cartoon which depicted “a group of Muslims engaged in rape and the person complaining is told he’s a racist bigot”.