Online Harms — [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:48 pm on 7th October 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Conservative, Brigg and Goole 2:48 pm, 7th October 2020

It is absolutely shocking. It should not take legislation to deal with it; it is obvious that the content should not be there. We need the Government to legislate, as I shall come on to in a moment, but it takes no brain surgeon to figure this stuff out. Sadly, too many platforms do not do enough.

Then of course there was the shocking Wiley incident, when he was tweeting on average every 87 seconds, which is incredible. There were 600 tweets, on a conservative estimate, which were seen online by more than 47 million people, of vile antisemitic abuse. Let us just consider some examples of it. He tweeted:

“If you work for a company owned by 2 Jewish men and you challenge the Jewish community in anyway of course you will get fired.”

Another one was:

“Infact there are 2 sets of people who nobody has really wanted to challenge #Jewish & #KKK but being in business for 20 years you start to undestand why:”

Then—something completely disgusting:

“Jewish people you think you are too important I am sick of you” and

“Jewish people you make me sick and I will not budge”.

It took days. As I said, it took, at a conservative estimate, 600 tweets before anything was done about it. Instagram videos were posted. When one platform closed it down it ended up elsewhere. That is despite all the terms and conditions in place.

Enforcement is, sadly, all too invisible, as Stephen Doughty has highlighted, with regard to Radio Aryan. I was pleased that Wiley was stripped of his honour, but he should never have been able to get into the position of being able to spout that bile for so long. The best we have been able to do is strip him of an honour. It is completely and utterly unacceptable.

There is a similar problem with other platforms. I want to talk briefly about BitChute. It is an alternative platform, but we see the same old tropes there. Videos get millions of views there. It is a nastier version of YouTube—let us be honest—with videos in the name of the proscribed group National Action, a channel, for example, with the name “Good Night Jewish Parasite”, livestreaming of terrorist content, racist videos about Black Lives Matter protesters and much more; but it is a UK-based platform with UK directors, and while action is taken against individual videos there is, sadly, not enough recourse. Given the time limits, I shall quickly ask two questions and make two comments on legislation and where we are heading.

The online harms White Paper suggested a number of codes of practice, and that seems to have been rowed away from somewhat in recent weeks and months, so that there will be reliance, instead, on the terms and conditions. I do not think that that is enough. I hope that the Minister will confirm that enforceable codes of action will flow. I hope that also if she has some time she will perhaps meet me, and the Antisemitism Policy Trust and other partners, to discuss the matter in more detail.

Will the Minister consider introducing senior management liability for social media companies? The German model for fines is often talked about, but it has not worked. The maximum fine so far issued in Germany is, I think, two million dollars or pounds, which is nothing for Facebook. It can afford to build that into its programme.

There is plenty more I could have said—I am conscious of the time—but I hope the Minister will commit to meet with us and respond to those two points.