The British Government is “dragging its heels” on tackling online abuse on social media, according to Plaid Cymru.
Despite agreeing to bring forward a Code of Practice for social media platforms in April, to provide guidance on how abuse should be dealt with, the British Government is yet to do so.
Plaid Cymru’s Home Affairs spokesperson, Liz Saville Roberts MP introduced a Private Members’ Bill in 2016 to introduce a Code of Practice for social media platforms, setting out procedures through which abuse and abusers could be dealt with. Plaid Cymru peer, Dafydd Wigley introduced amendments in the House of Lords, which eventually triggered a concession by the British Government, to bring forward their own Code of Practice.
Parliamentary Questions by Liz Saville Roberts MP have revealed that the British Government is still yet to begin working on the Code of Practice despite high profile cases of online abuse being widespread.
Staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital were subjected to sustained abuse, including death threats, during the Charlie Gard campaign. Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott has complained of receiving racist and sexist abuse on “a daily basis” and abuse directed at Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood led to internet troll, David Begley being jailed for 12 weeks.
Earlier this week the Crown Prosecution Service announced a crackdown on online abuse, including tougher penalties for abuse on social media platforms. Official figures show a 20% rise in all forms of hate crime reported to the police in the first quarter of this year and hate crime is believed to be significantly under-reported.
Plaid Cymru MPs will bring forward amendments to the British Government’s Courts Bill to “force the British Government to take action”. The party says they will amend the Courts Bill to introduce the Code of Practice promised by the British Government. The Code would apply to conduct which involves bullying, harassment and abuse as well as content inciting terror.
Plaid Cymru’s Home Affairs spokesperson, Liz Saville Roberts MP said:
“The way in which we communicate with each other and the world has changed drastically over the last decade, with more than 85 million social media users in the UK alone.
“Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, must take more responsibility in tackling the surge of online abuse, much of which is of a criminal nature.
"Some improvements are being made with the Crown Prosecution Service announcing earlier this week that tougher penalties will be brought in for abuse on social media, but the British Government needs to take a lead and ensure social media platforms themselves take responsibility.
“There is no doubt that online abuse is rising and Twitter’s top lawyer has himself admitted that they have been “inexcusably slow” in fighting off vicious online crime. It is clear that there is little incentive for social media platforms to implement robust processes to deal with criminal online abuse and we must therefore ensure that there is a statutory requirement placed on them to do so.
“Plaid Cymru put forward a Private Members’ Bill back in November 2016 and we’ve since pushed amendments in the House of Lords which the British Government claimed to accept. Why then, has the Government failed to deliver, nine months after the original Bill was discussed?
“The Government is dragging its heels and responses to Parliamentary Questions have been wholly inadequate.
“If someone was subjected to hate crime inside a supermarket for example, there would be an expectation on the supermarket’s security team to take action. The same should be true of social media platforms and Plaid Cymru will be introducing amendments to the Courts Bill which will force the British Government to take action.”