House of Commons report: Social media – How much regulation is needed?

Self-regulation by social media companies is not enough to keep users safe, therefore statutory regulation should be introduced to protect, especially, children from harmful content and activity on social media.

This is according to a December 2019 House of Commons Library report on protecting individual users, in particular children, from harmful content and activity on social media.

The report also notes that:

  • Although the Government has noted that legislation passed before the digital age is still applicable and flexible, there is no existing overall online regulator,
  • The Online Harms White Paper was published to set out the then-Government’s approach and plan to tackle the issue, introducing a new regulatory framework,
  • At the core of the regulatory framework is a new statutory duty of care for internet companies, including social media platforms. The statutory duty of care would be placed on the companies to take greater responsibility for the safety of their users.
  • An Independent regulator would be required to oversee and enforce the new framework. For instance, one of the core enforcement powers would be issuing civil fines for proven failure in clearly defined circumstances.
  • The children’s charity NSPCC applauded the new framework as a significant commitment to protect children online. Additionally, many commentators perceived the new framework as a positive step forward.
  • Although the framework has been positively received, some commentators pointed out various flaws including the broad definition of ‘online harms’ which risks conflating legal and social issues, as well as possible risks to freedom of expression.

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