Time's Up for Toxic Content on Social Media

Time’s up. After over a decade in which social media companies have been able to evade responsibility for toxic content on their platform, the Government has now signalled that action is coming.

Not before time in my view. Earlier this month I called in Parliament for sanctions against sites which host material glamorising knife violence. If we are going to defeat this scourge the private sector needs to act responsibly and play its part.

And the grim fact is the most casual online searches will reveal videos and images of so-called Zombie and Rambo knives, Gator machetes and customised Samurai swords. Some social media platforms are even being used to incite violence.

But concerns about online content go beyond overtly harmful material. Social media can act insidiously too in terms of the pressure it can put on our young people. In my Parliamentary inquiry into the impact of cyberbullying on adolescent mental health, I heard chilling evidence of the effect that incessant trolling and abuse can have on young minds.

Following those debates, the Government is now planning to make social networks liable for the content on their platforms and comply with a code of conduct.

This would include a formal duty of care, requiring platforms to protect their users from harms ranging from cyberbullying to imagery of self-harm and extreme violence.

I think that’s a very welcome step forward. Only time will tell if more measures are necessary.

The internet has brought incredible freedoms across the world and an amazing ability to communicate. But it also has the troubling capacity to distort, mislead and even promote hatred and violence.

We owe it to current and future generations to address these issues now. The time for action is now.