The government should impose regulations on Facebook because it has failed to regulate itself, according to the former digital and culture minister Ed Vaizey.
Speaking on the Today Programme on Monday (4 February), the Conservative MP said it had been clear for many years that Facebook has the same responsibilities as other media companies.
“Facebook exists in the public sphere in the same way as a broadcaster like the BBC does. They publish material and the vast majority of it is very helpful to us as consumers, but some of it is extremely harmful,” said Vaizey.
His remarks come as Facebook turns 15 facing a barrage of criticism for failing to police the content hosted across its suite of platforms. In a letter sent to Facebook, Google and Twitter last month, the health secretary Matt Hancock said it was “appalling how easy it is” to access inappropriate content on social media.
The intervention followed the case of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old who took her own life in 2017 after viewing material about suicide on Instagram.
The government is planning to publish a white paper ordering firms to shield users from images of suicide, bullying and self harm. Those that fail to do so will face action from a new regulator, the Sunday Times reported yesterday.
“It’s very difficult for the British government acting on its own to make a huge impact,” Vaizey added. “The EU working together does have a big impact on fining these companies for privacy breaches. But the real change will come if the American government decides to act, whether it’s privacy or competition regulation.”
The government’s white paper is expected to be published in the coming weeks.
Facebook has been reached for comment.