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Online Crime

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 3rd March 2016.

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Photo of Simon Danczuk Simon Danczuk Labour, Rochdale 9:30 am, 3rd March 2016

What discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on ensuring that social media companies comply with police investigations into online crime.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I have regular meetings with ministerial colleagues at the Home Office to discuss a range of issues.

Photo of Simon Danczuk Simon Danczuk Labour, Rochdale

Companies such as Facebook often talk about corporate social responsibility, and I can think of nothing more responsible than co-operating with the police about death threats. Greater Manchester police have been waiting weeks for Facebook to help to identify those who made such threats to some Members of this House, not least me. Does the Secretary of State agree that Facebook and other social media need to do more to help the criminal justice system?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I expect all social media companies to assist the police and uphold the law. Those providing communication services to users in the UK have an obligation to comply with UK warrants that request the content of communications, and with notices requiring the disclosure of data. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should bring that to the attention of Facebook, and indeed to Greater Manchester police, if such co-operation is not forthcoming.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Conservative, Eastleigh

Will the Minister join me in roundly welcoming the consultation that is starting today on taking action against cowardly internet trolls who create fake social media profiles and bully, harass and menace others online, and on taking action to help children affected by online bullying?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I entirely share my hon. Friend’s concern, and it is very distressing when such things happen. I discovered that someone had set up a profile of me without my knowledge a few weeks ago, and I swiftly had it removed. It is clear that we must tighten the law where people are using such profiles to cause distress. In some cases they are breaching the law, so I welcome the new guidelines from the CPS.

Photo of John Mann John Mann Labour, Bassetlaw

Internet companies are required to respond to requests from the police, but there is no timescale for that. It takes more than three weeks on average before Twitter provides data to the UK police for criminal investigations. What will the Minister and the Government do to force internet companies to respond promptly and immediately to our law enforcement agencies that are pursuing criminals?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

As I said to Simon Danczuk, I expect all social media companies to comply with the law without any unnecessary delay. If there is evidence that they are delaying, I am happy to discuss the matter with my colleagues in the Home Office and to consider what more can be done.