More Regulation of Social Media?

In a couple of previous blog posts I have commented on the problems of social media and internet blogging sites, particularly with regard to how they affect the financial world, and what might be done about it. I suggested the Government hold a public inquiry into the whole area, but it seems they are not waiting. Such inquiries can take years so perhaps that is a good thing.

Yesterday the Sunday Times reported that the Government’s Media and Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock, was intending to introduce laws to control on-line bullying and harassment. He is quoted as saying: “The overall goal it to make Britain the safest place to be online as well as the best place to start and grow a digital business. We are committing to legislate on internet safety, potentially including a statutory code of conduct to make sure that we tackle bullying and harassment, which is a problem across social media but particularly for children. It will also include transparency reports so we know what bad behaviour is happening on social media and looking at the advertising that happens online”.

He is apparently suggesting that the technology platforms that support social media would be responsible for the content which is a major step forward and that penalties for ignoring the law would be severe. His major concern seems to be focused on children (he has some young ones of his own), but obviously such legislation could have a very wide scope.

The Government is rightly recognizing the seriousness of the problem so this is surely a positive move.

There are more details given here in a press release: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-laws-to-make-social-media-safer

This section in the document published in response to a green paper makes it clear that it will not just cover individuals such as children but business activity also:

“The code is intended to make it easier for people to report bullying content by providing guidance to social media providers as to policies they should have in place for removing this content. The Digital Economy Act 2017 section 103 sets out that the code of practice should only cover conduct which is directed towards an individual. However, we have set out additional guidance, not required under section 103, stating that the code of practice should also apply to conduct directed at groups and businesses, as users can be upset by content even if it’s not directed towards them individually.  

Examples of online bullying that will be addressed by the code include, but are not limited to:

  • Threats of harm made to individual(s);
  • Threats to share images (‘outing’);
  • Impersonation;
  • Posting personal information including information that can locate an individual(s);
  • Posting text or images to bully, insult, intimidate or humiliate an individual(s);
  • Posting an image of the individual(s) used without consent;
  • Posting false information about someone;
  • Nasty or upsetting comments;
  • Sending repeated unwanted messages to an individual(s);
  • Trolling – deliberately offensive or provocative online posts;
  • Flaming – brief, heated exchange between two or more people;
  • Dog-piling

It is clear therefore that this will be quite broad-based legislation that might well inhibit some of the commentary published in the financial sector.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson )

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