Church of England bishops today welcomed the publication of a Government White Paper including plans to impose substantial fines against social media companies that breach their duty of care towards the vulnerable.
The Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, who in 2016 launched a campaign (#liedentity) to encourage a safer online environment, said: “The new plans unveiled today are an encouraging sign that the online world will start to be regulated to protect people like Molly Russell, 14, who tragically took her own life. We know that her family believe that social media was partly responsible for their daughter’s death.
“Research tells us that 4 in 10 people feel that tech firms fail to take their concerns seriously when they complain.
“It’s about time that social media companies are held responsible for their content and are accountable for their actions. No other organisation in the ‘real’ world has that freedom. We manage to regulate electricity, water companies, broadcasters, shops etc through consumer bodies, yet for years social media companies have been allowed to self-regulate. These new clear standards, backed up by enforcement powers will hopefully be the step change to start really protecting our children and young people online.”
The White Paper, which includes plans to hold individual executives personally liable for failings, follows the publication of a House of Lords Select Committee report on Communication.