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Social media platforms could be fined for failing to remove racist abuse

Alexander Britton, PA
·2-min read

Social media giants could face multi-million pound fines for failing to crack down on racist abuse on their platforms, the Culture Secretary said.

The sporting world will hold a four-day blackout on their channels starting on Friday afternoon, with many players, clubs and broadcasters joining forces to say that online abuse is not acceptable.

A bill on Online Safety is due before Parliament this year and is expected to set out a duty of care to which tech companies must adhere, with large financial penalties for those found to be in breach.

Christmas Package 2020
Oliver Dowden has put the onus on online firms to remove racist abuse (Yui Mok/PA)

And, writing in the Sun, Oliver Dowden suggested that racist abuse will be among the harms that social media companies have to stamp out.

He wrote: “Under the legislation, if social media companies do not keep their promises to users by, for example, failing to remove racist abuse, they will face severe sanctions.

“We could see fines of up to ten per cent of annual global turnover. For a company such as Facebook or YouTube, that could be billions.”

He added that the threat of enforcement would get social media companies to act.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s vice president for northern Europe Steve Hatch wrote in the Daily Telegraph said his firm has clear rules against hate speech, but “zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero incidence”.

He added: “We can’t stop people from being prejudiced, or from typing abuse into their phone, but we can take steps to strengthen our rules, and improve our detection and enforcement.”

He said work to bring about change must also take place offline, writing: “No single thing will fix this challenge overnight but we’re committed to doing what we can to keep our community safe from abuse.

“We’ll continue our work with the football industry, Government and others to effect change through action and education.”