First published (abridged) in The Sun on 27 July 2018
As late as the 1950s and 60s, Big Tobacco defended cigarettes, claiming they didn’t harm your health. Tighter regulation was then recommended, but for many people it came too late.
Today, Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube and other online platforms are facing their own Big Tobacco moment. The difference is we can do something about it.
Government, countless charities and responsible businesses agree these platforms can’t be allowed to mark their own homework anymore, that they should be regulated. Even Mark Zuckerberg admitted Facebook is a publisher and acknowledged regulation is probably coming. Despite this we keep being told it is too hard. [That it will stifle innovation.] That it will stop free speech.
Yet there is a simple solution. Sun readers know that when they switch on their TV, they won’t see harmful content like they can online. Broadcasters have to meet certain standards and laws. Children are protected. Regulation works for consumers and for the TV companies who happily comply.
That’s why Sky commissioned an independent report called Keeping Consumers Safe Online. The report suggested how tech companies could be regulated. To make sure they’re open about what they do. To introduce a regulator with sharp teeth that can make them act responsibly. We were delighted to see the Sun come out in support of this.
Last week, on Channel 4’s Dispatches, Facebook publically defended decisions they made not to remove self-harm and child abuse videos from their platform. That is not the behaviour of a responsible business.
They keep saying they will do better next time. But it keeps on happening. A regulatory framework is the only answer. The Government needs to introduce regulations that ensure people, and children in particular, are better protected online.
Mark Zuckerberg famously told his staff to ‘move fast and break things’. Every day we see examples of how his employees did just that. Now it is time for the Government to move fast and fix things.