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Internet regulation plans not enough, says Labour’s Tom Watson

Labour’s deputy leader argues that proposals do nothing to tackle ‘dark digital advertising campaigners’.

Tom Watson has been highly critical of Facebook and its founder and CEO (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Tom Watson has been highly critical of Facebook and its founder and CEO (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has criticised the Government’s plans to introduce a regulator that will aim to make tech companies more responsible for harmful content online, warning that it fails to address concerns about how social networks handle user data.

The MP for West Bromwich East has previously spoken out strongly about Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, calling him an “arrogant corporate elite” and a “coward” for failing to answer questions from a select committee in the UK.

The proposals set out in the long-awaited white paper will take too long to put into action, Mr Watson argues, and also do nothing to tackle “dark digital advertising campaigners” which many fear have used social networks to meddle in elections.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been heavily criticised by Tom Watson (Niall Carson/PA)

“The public and politicians of all parties agree these platforms must be made to take responsibility for the harms, hate speech and fake news they host,” he said in response to the proposals.

“The concern with these plans is that they could take years to implement.

“We need action immediately to protect children and others vulnerable to harm.

“These plans also seem to stop short of tackling the overriding data monopolies causing this market failure and do nothing to protect our democracy from dark digital advertising campaigners and fake news.

“This is a start but it’s a long way from truly reclaiming the web and routing out online harms.”

Issues surrounding political advertising were also a concern echoed by Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman Damian Collins MP, who said that it is “vital that our electoral law is brought up to date as soon as possible” and urged for emergency legislation to be introduced should there be an early election.

Both Facebook and Twitter have made efforts to reduce misinformation, beefing up political advert transparency tools in the lead up to European elections in May.

“To date, Twitter has been an active participant in the discussion between industry and the UK Government on how to keep people safe online,” said Katy Minshall, head of public policy for Twitter UK.

“We are already deeply committed to prioritising the safety of our users, as evidenced by the introduction of over 70 changes to our policies and processes last year to improve the health and safety of the public conversation online.

“We look forward to engaging in the next steps of the process, and working to strike an appropriate balance between keeping users safe and preserving the open, free nature of the internet.”

PA

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