Social media giants like Facebook accused of failure to act against ‘horrific’ online abuse

·2-min read
The letter claimed that 'insufficient steps are being taken' to tackle online abuse - Chesnot/Getty Images
The letter claimed that 'insufficient steps are being taken' to tackle online abuse - Chesnot/Getty Images

Social media abuse “which rots away the very foundations of society” must be stopped, 50 Conservative MPs have told technology giants.

The letter by Saqib Bhatti, Conservative MP for Meriden accused Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Reddit and Snapchat of letting the online world “become home to some horrific levels of abuse which also sometimes spill out into the physical world”.

Signed by senior Tory MPs including Steve Baker, Karen Bradley, Damian Green and Robert Halfon, it claims the platforms have failed to take “decisive action to tackle online abuse”, which “has meant that you have become enablers of abuse which rots away the very foundations of our society”.

The letter added: “There are those who use social media and online platforms to commit abhorrent abuse and they do so in the knowledge that little or no action will be taken against them.

“Despite numerous calls for change, it is our view that insufficient steps are being taken to address this.”

The letter comes in the wake of Sir David Amess’s death, which has reignited the debate about online abuse.

Priti Patel warned that online trolls could be stripped of their anonymity in order to tackle the growing torrent of abuse faced by MPs, while calls have been mounting for the Government to take tougher action against social media companies that fail to tackle abuse on their platforms.

‘Three strikes and you’re out’ policy

The letter comes as MPs hear evidence on Monday from Frances Haugen, a whistleblower from Facebook, at the Draft Online Safety Bill committee.

In order to counter online abuse, the politicians have recommended that platforms introduce an ID verification to make the people “traceable” online.

They added that linking an individual’s various social media accounts will make it “harder for foreign actors to make multiple accounts and attempt to corrupt the online world”.

They also suggested a “three strikes and you are out” policy, with those engaging in racist abuse incurring lifetime bans. The MPs say it is currently “too easy” for those who have been removed from platforms to return.

Finally, they recommended that an algorithm be used to recognise “specific terms and racist terminology”, with a review by a UK-based team to ensure that racist abuse online is correctly identified and dealt with.

“We believe that the moral responsibility is on you to make social media a safe place for everyone,” Mr Bhatti told the technology giants.

“The failure to address this issue and robustly clean up your platforms means you are willing to be complicit in the different forms of abuse that take place.”

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