COMPARED TO THE riddle of how to resolve David Cameron's vanity boondoggle in a dignified manner, fixing social media seems like a picnic. So perhaps it's no surprise that the government has finally resolved to crack down on harmful content plaguing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other lesser scapegoats.
The government on Monday published a white paper which outlines plans to punish social media companies if they don't do a better job of keeping harmful content off their platforms. Harmful content refers to terrorist content, encouragement of self-harm or suicide, the spread of fake news and cyberbullying amongst other things. Alas, it doesn't cover humblebragging or twee inspirational quotes set against scenic photography, but one step at a time.
These are pretty broad categories, and you may wonder how on Earth companies are supposed to figure out what's within the rules and what isn't. That's also the view of TechUK's Vinous Ali, who told CNET that it felt a touch "too vague".
"Too vague" isn't really a problem if the punishment is a light slap on the wrist, but the government is threatening more. The white paper suggests the creation of a regulator to oversee websites, and it would have the power to fine companies and even hold senior directors liable. There's also talk of blocking websites, or encouraging Google, Bing and - God forbid - Yahoo from indexing serial offenders. Not that Facebook and YouTube have hugely hard to remember URLs, of course.
"The era of self-regulation for online companies is over," said digital secretary Jeremy Wright, which seems a little premature for something that is, for now, still just a white paper. "Voluntary actions from industry to tackle online harms have not been applied consistently or gone far enough."
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Without irony, prime minister Theresa May took to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to promote the new initiative, as you can see embedded above. If all three do end up getting deindexed in the future, she'll presumably just resort to yelling these statements out the window of 10 Downing Street instead. µ
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