It’s the first time This Writer has agreed with Margaret Hodge in years.
She has said the government must ban online anonymity or make social media directors personally liable for defamatory posts, revealing that she receives tens of thousands of abusive tweets a month:
Hodge accused the government of deliberately delaying the online harms bill in order to avoid difficult conversations with powerful social media companies, and said she was prepared to take up a campaign to make sure the law was tough enough.
The Online Harms Bill arises from a White Paper produced last year – and This Site commented on it at the time.
The White Paper – and now the Bill (I expect; I haven’t actually seen any information on it since April last year) proposed a statutory duty of care, to be conferred on media companies including platforms such as Facebook and Google, online messaging services like WhatsApp and file hosting sites.
They would be required to comply with a code of practice, setting out the steps they must take to meet the duty of care. This may include designing products and platforms to make them safer, directing users who have suffered harm towards support, combating disinformation (for example by using fact-checking services), and improving the transparency of political advertising.
They would be expected to co-operate with police and other enforcement agencies on illegalities including incitement of violence and selling illegal weapons.
And they would have to compile annual “transparency reports” detailing the amount of harmful content found on their platforms and what they are doing to combat it.
The government would have powers to direct the regulator – initially Ofcom, with a dedicated regulator to follow in the future – on specific issues such as terrorist activity or child sexual exploitation.
I pointed out last year that the White Paper did not include any measures to stop people creating anonymous accounts.
If Ms Hodge wants to see that happen now, then I am all for it.
It will stop me receiving much (but not all) of the abuse I get from people wrongly accusing me of anti-Semitism after the Labour Party expelled me under false pretences (as shown in court).
But that’s not what was on offer in April last year. As I made perfectly clear, “regulating online media platforms will not stop people posting “harmful” content to them, if there is nothing to stop them from doing so. It is farcically easy to create anonymous accounts, from which to post objectionable and/or abusive content.
“Shut one down? That’s fine – the individual responsible can have another up and running in a matter of minutes, if they don’t have multiple aliases working already.”
And I made that point that “it has been argued that people must have a right to be able to post anonymously, because of personal circumstances that make it important – possibly for their personal safety.”
My response: “Fine. A system can be devised in which people apply for anonymity and the number of people or organisations able to ascertain their real identity is strictly limited. That would allow these individuals to continue functioning in the online world. And it would prevent others from abusing social media platforms. Any posts from an unrecognised anonymous account would be easy to flag up and isolate.”
If Ms Hodge is proposing such a system then I am behind her every step of the way, and never mind all the other differences we have.
Although – as a staunch witch-hunter herself – I wonder whether she would approve of that outcome.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:
Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.
1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.
2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical
3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/
Join the Vox Political Facebook page.
4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com
And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!
If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!
Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.
The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here: