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BBC, ITV and C4 pile pressure on government to instate social media watchdog

All of firms involved in lobbying the government are regulated by Ofcom / Facebook

Facebook, Google and Twitter need "urgent" regulation in the form of an independent watchdog to help stop the spread of fake news and protect children, according to broadcasters such as the BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Sky.

In a letter sent to The Telegraph, a cohort of Britain's biggest broadcasters and telecoms firms have united in the view that there is an "urgent need" for independent scrutiny of the decisions taken at internet and social media companies.

The letter, which precedes forthcoming proposals that will define laws around internet safety in the UK, read: "We do not think it is realistic or appropriate to expect internet and social media companies to make all the judgment calls about what content is and is not acceptable, without any independent oversight."

The plea comes amid concerns over Facebook's role in the spread of misinformation and data privacy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, as well as fears over the safety of children on YouTube and hate speech on Twitter.

The group urged politicians to act against such online hazards, many of which it claimed were "exacerbated by social media".

Signatories included: Tony Hall, director-general of the BBC; Jeremy Darroch, chief executive of Sky; ITV boss Carolyn McCall; Channel 4 chief Alex Mahon; BT's Gavin Patterson and Tristia Harrison of Talktalk.

All of the firms involved in lobbying the government are regulated by Ofcom.

The letter continued: “There is an urgent need for independent scrutiny of the decisions taken, and greater transparency. This is not about censoring the internet, it is about making the most popular internet platforms safer, by ensuring there is accountability and transparency over the decisions these private companies are already taking."

Broadcasters such as ITV have been critical of Facebook in particular in the past for overstating its audience figures and demographics.

"If that happened in TV, we would have been roundly attacked and condemned," McCall told attendees at the Isba conference last year.

As well as pushing for more regulation, BBC et al implicitly invited comparisons between the way they are taxed compared to tech firms. The coalition highlighted that it invests "significantly in British infrastructure and content" and pays "high and fair" levels of tax.

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