Social media giants accused of 'profiting from online abuse'

Posted On: 
19th December 2017

A top Tory MP has accused Twitter, Facebook and Google of profiting from online abuse.

Tory MP Tim Loughton grilled representatives of Twitter, Google and Facebook at a Home Affairs Select Committee this morning
Credit: 
parliamentlive.tv

Former minister Tim Loughton blasted the social media giants for failing to remove violent content, including the Twitter hashtag #killatory.

The Conservative MP suggested that the online platform was operating a double standard as it had removed similar content which included the term #killasocialist.

Representatives from the firms faced a grilling from MPs at a Home Affairs Committee session this morning.

Mr Loughton said: “You are profiting from the fact that people use your platform and you are profiting, I’m afraid, from the fact that people are using your platforms to further the ills of society and you are allowing them to do it.”     

Sinead McSweeney, who heads Twitter's public policy and communications in Europe, told the hearing dealing with abuse was “not a simple problem in society and it is not a simple problem on the platform”.

She suggested that blanket removal of content could censor important public debate.

“If you just to say take down everything that uses that hashtag you would remove a lot of tweets and content from people like yourself or your supporters who are saying ‘this is wrong, this shouldn’t happen’.”  

Elsewhere in the session, committee chair Yvette Cooper accused the companies of “grooming” vulnerable users by recommending extremist content.

The Labour MP said: "You are actively recommending what amounts to racist videos into people's timelines.

"Your algorithms are doing that grooming and that radicalisation, because once people click on one dodgy thing you are linking them to other things, whether that be racism, whether that be Islamic extremism.

"Technology is doing that job and you're not stopping it from doing so."

The row comes after John Bercow was forced to defend Tory MPs who have received death threats over their Brexit stance.

The Commons Speaker said they were "dedicated, hard-working, committed public servants" who did not deserve the abuse aimed at them.

Speaking in the House yesterday, Theresa May insisted that there "can never be a place for the threats of violence and intimidation".

Adam Thilthorpe of IT charity BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, told PoliticsHome: “There is clearly a problem here.

“Social media companies have not set out to create platforms to promote hate speech and abuse, but there is a genuine societal danger if we don’t all work to address the issues being highlighted.”