The government has a pretty turbulent relationship with social media. There's a lot that can be gained from the ease and efficiency of the communication, but social media sites are also poor at regulating themselves and have inevitably devolved into a cesspit where awful people can group together to do and say terrible things (to say the very least). Now British broadcasters have come together to ask that the government increase its oversight of social media with a dedicated watchdog organisation.
Executives from the BBC, Channel 4, Sky, ITV, BT, and TalkTalk all penned the letter, which found its way to the Sunday Telegraph. In it they asked that the government found a new independent regulatory body to tackle the many issues faced on social media, including fake news, child abuse, extremism, harassment, and other issues that have been in the news over the past several years.
“We do not think it is realistic or appropriate to expect internet and social media companies to make all the judgment calls about what content is and is not acceptable, without any independent oversight.
There is an urgent need for independent scrutiny of the decisions taken, and greater transparency. This is not about censoring the internet, it is about making the most popular internet platforms safer, by ensuring there is accountability and transparency over the decisions these private companies are already taking.”
These aren't exactly issues that the government has been ignoring, either. It's long been critical of the way social media services seemingly allow the spread of extremist material (one of the few things the current regime agrees with the EU on), as well as the issue of child safety on the internet as a whole and the whole topic of how fake news could have influenced Brexit. There's also those "internet safety laws" promised by Matt Hancock before he went off and became Health Secretary. We don't know much about this, however, and won't know the details until the government publishes the white paper later this year.
While social media companies have insisted that they've been doing loads of work into tackling these issues, there's still a lot of issues online. Twitter is a great example of a place where harassment and the spread of fake information is rampant, while the higher-ups are seemingly content to try and ignore it the hopes that it either goes away. Or that people stop asking about it, which so far hasn't happened.
So far the government hasn't responded to the letter, which gives us plenty of time to ask how such a regulator might work. It's going to have to be different to, say, Ofcom, since social media is a global thing. Social media is also powered by people, and they've shown they don't really care to play by the rules. It's easy to say that something has to be done, but without a a solid plan of action those are just words. And so far words haven't done much good. [The Telegraph via Engadget]