Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are being threatened with the imposition of a new ‘online abuse levy’ as frustrated government ministers seek to force action against cyber bullying, trolling and other forms of digital abuse.
Such sites have long been accused of facilitating ‘undeniable suffering’ and in an effort to force the issue culture secretary Karen Bradley has invited the sector to sign-up for a voluntary code of practice, as well as to put their hands into their pockets to finance campaigns which tackle abuse.
Social media platforms will also come under pressure to divulge the true scale of online hate following surveys which suggest that close to a fifth of 12-15 year old’s have been exposed to offensive content.
Sensing a ‘willingness’ to change from Silicon Valley Bradley said: “Many of them say: 'When we founded these businesses we were in our 20s, we didn't have children… now we're older and we have teenagers ourselves we want to solve this’.
“For too long there's been behaviour online that would be unacceptable if it was face-to-face.”
A key component of the new code of conduct would be an annual transparency report showing the volume of reported content and the proportion removed together with a breakdown of complaints across specific demographics.
Social media firms will also be asked to show how they handle user complaints and provide information on how they monitor content. A new body with responsibility for all aspects of child safety, the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, could also be established.
Underpinning all of this is an explicit threat that the government could be forced to ‘legislate in the future’ should it deem the response to be less than satisfactory.