Our response: Mark Zuckerberg asks governments to help control internet content

On Saturday 30th March, Facebook’s Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted in an open letter that the company needs governments’ help to control content on their platform. This includes stronger regulation around harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability. Glitch strongly believes these social media platforms cannot be used as a tool to spread hate and further existing inequalities. For last two years Glitch along with many other civil society groups have been calling for significant action and investment from social media companies to tackle harmful content on their platforms.

Our recommendations are focused on ensuring social media are a safe place for all people to use, to express themselves free from online hate speech, harassment and abuse. Our calls for reform include, regular and holistic transparency reports, effective reporting processes, statutory duty of care on platforms, and a levy on social media companies. We are pleased that Facebook has not only finally admitted there is a huge problem but are also making similar calls for reform. This is a long awaited announcement and we agree action is needed from governments as part of package to fix the glitch and end online abuse. However, we need a multifaceted approach to ending online abuse and this must also include social media companies adopting a duty of care to all users. 

Online abuse in all its forms is having a devastating impact on mental health and wellbeing, democracy and human rights.  A Department for Culture, Media and Sport consultation last year found four in ten people said they had experienced abuse online. Addressing online harms such as online abuse, bullying and malformation requires not only a universal approach from governments and businesses but also partnership working amongst all social media companies. This is also part of our call for reform. We are pleased that such partnership working exists to address some forms of extremism and child sex exploitation. We ask that the scope of this partnership is extended to review online gender based abuse and violence.

More recently a Survation poll , commissioned by Level Up last month, found that 56% of women under 25 and 40% of women from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background said they had been harassed at least once on Facebook. Not only is an intersectional approach to addressing online harms necessary but also the inclusion of as many diverse civil society groups working on online harms and online tech related violence.

Following Zuckeberg’s announcement and the long awaited UK Government White Paper on Online Harms which is expected to set out the responsibilities of online platforms, Glitch also hopes to see the White Paper cover areas of regulation and reform Zuckerberg is finally calling for.

These calls for reforms will become empty promises if there is no commitment to financial investment from all social media companies. Since Autumn last year Glitch and 100 women’s right organisations and activist from the Centenary Action Group have been campaigning for new money to protect the public from online offences and harms. We strongly believe global tech giants should pay their fair share.

The new “digital services tax” of 2% on tech giants such as Facebook is expected to raise an additional £400m a year and we are asking the UK Government to ringfence at least 1% of the new digital service tax annually for ending online abuse. These reforms and calls for investment are the decisive actions we must see to fix the glitch and ensure the internet is safer and useable for all.

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