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Oscar Williams

News editor

Digital secretary Matt Hancock has ruled out creating a new regulator for social media

The digital and culture secretary, Matt Hancock, has ruled out creating a new regulator to oversee social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter.

In an interview on the BBC’s Media Show, Hancock said he was “not inclined in that direction” and instead wanted to ensure existing regulation is fit for purpose.

“If you tried to bring in a new regulator you’d end up having to regulate everything,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to make sure that the regulations ensure that markets work properly and people are protected.”

Over the last year Facebook, Twitter and Google have come under fire from politicians for their role in disseminating disinformation in the run up to the US presidential election.

The Electoral Commission and the digital, culture, media and sport select committee are now investigating whether Russian groups used the platforms to interfere in the Brexit referendum in 2016.

The DCMS select committee is in the US this week to grill tech executives about their role in spreading fake news. In a committee hearing in Washington yesterday, YouTube’s policy chief said the site had found no evidence of Russian-linked accounts purchasing ads to interfere in the Brexit referendum.

“We have conducted [an investigation into] the Brexit referendum and found no evidence of interference,” she said. “We looked at all ads with any connection to Russia, and there is no evidence of our services being used.”

Juniper Downs committed to further research into whether Russian groups spread disinformation on the platform through unpaid posts during the campaign.

The most radical policy response to the rise of fake news is arguably found in Germany, where politicians have introduced fines for firms that fail to quickly remove defamatory stories and other illegal content.

Sites that do not act on reports about hate speech, fake news or illegal material within 24 hours could be subjected to fines of up to €50m under the new law.

The legislation, dubbed NetzDG, was passed into law in June and came into force in October. Firms were given until the end of the year to comply.