Latest News

09 May 2019

Collins: Era Of ‘Digital Gangsters’ Coming To An End

The era in which social media companies have considered themselves above the law and behaved like “digital gangsters” is coming to an end with the introduction of effective independent regulation, Damian Collins has said.

The chair of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee was speaking as the Government published its response to the Committee’s report into the Disinformation and ‘fake news’ which recommended a series of tough measures against the tech giants.

The report also endorsed and welcomed the Cairncross Report’s recommendations for actions to safeguard the future of journalism including the recommendation that online digital newspapers and magazines should be zero rated for VAT.

The report also called for an investigation into online advertising by the Competition and Markets Authority as called for by Ministers, publishers and the News Media Association.

Mr Collins said: “Over 18 months and two reports, the DCMS Committee has shone light into the darker recesses of the online world where some social media companies have been allowed to consider themselves above the law, behaving like ‘digital gangsters’. That era of self-regulation is coming to an end.

“Today we’re publishing the Government’s response to our work. It has recognised the rigorous work we carried out which provided much of the evidence upon which the White Paper on Online Harms is based. 

“I’m pleased to see that the majority of our recommendations on how to regulate social media companies have been accepted. Particularly, the need for independent regulation, the need to make companies legally responsible for monitoring and removing harmful and illegal content, and the threat of substantial fines to force companies to act.

“Our newly launched Sub-Committee on Disinformation will continue to monitor the Government’s plans to carry out the action it has outlined in dealing with threats that disinformation poses to our political democracy.”

The Committee welcomed Government’s agreement of the need for a new regulatory framework for social media companies, with a statutory Duty of Care to protect users and Codes of Practice to ensure companies meet their legal responsibilities, as set out in its White Paper on Online Harms.

Giving the regulator sufficient powers to act on failures to remove harmful or illegal content is critical, the Committee added, adding that it was “pleased that the Government has agreed with our recommendation on the ability to impose substantial fines when breaches occur.”