U.K. to Ask Social Media for Annual Reviews, Conduct Codes

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Theresa May, U.K. prime minister.
Theresa May, U.K. prime minister. Credit: Andy Rain/Pool via Bloomberg

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will announce a series of steps intended to crack down on social media companies for not policing extremist and abusive content on their platforms.

May has made attacks on social media for not doing enough to combat extremism a fixture of her speeches in the past two years and she is now getting more specific on what she wants done.

In a speech in Manchester on Tuesday, the British leader will say that she will require social media companies to provide data for an annual transparency report tracking their progress in keeping extremist propaganda and hate speech off their sites.

It should provide data about the amount and nature of the content being flagged to the companies and how they are responding to those reports, including details of how much and what kinds of content is being removed.

The largest social media companies—Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube, a division of Alphabet—already publish such data regularly, but not all of them publish it on an annual basis and the definitions used by the different companies is not standardized.

May is also expected to call on the U.K. Law Commission, an independent body that reviews British law and suggests changes, to conduct a review of the rules governing online content "to ensure that the criminal law, which was drafted long before the creation of social media platforms, is appropriate to meet the challenges posed by this new technology."

The government also plans to introduce a social media code of practice—though it's unclear if there will be penalties for violating it. The European Commission will soon publish a voluntary code of conduct for social media companies.

-- Bloomberg News

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