Anyone reading the British newspapers today who works for or owns one of the major social media platforms will quickly realise that the end of the self-regulatory road is upon them. Coming on the heels of extensive coverage last week of major online child protection stories, generated by the NSPCC and CHIS, today the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee released their report about what they suggest is the wholly inadequate way in which social media companies are dealing with online hate crimes. However, if you were to put the Home Affairs report side by side with the documents issued by the NSPCC and CHIS what would be striking is the similarity of the analysis, the conclusions and the recommendations.
The Times made the Select Committee Report their lead front page story. The Daily Telegraph did likewise. The Guardian, The Daily Mail , The Daily Mirror and The Independent also carried major pieces. I stopped counting at that point.
Last week the NSPCC called for the social media companies to be made subject to fines if they didn’t up their game in terms of child protection. CHIS called for a new independent regulator with the power to make legally binding orders. In their report today the Select Committee made an analogy with how we police football. In the UK the clubs have to pay for the police time involved in keeping public order on match days. The MPs argued that if the social media companies do not improve their performance the police will start going on the sites and charge them for services rendered. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
Then there’s the fake news stuff and in case you had forgotten we are in the middle of a General Election campaign.
General Election or not this day has been a long time coming and its inevitability has never been in doubt. The guys in California are super smart. They will doubtless have anticipated the current scenarios. They knew it couldn’t last forever but they have had a good run, perhaps a better run than they ever expected. In the meantime, the cash balances have grown and now they might just have to take a small hit to avoid some of the worst threats and possibilities that are definitely on the near horizon. In twelve months some things will be very, very different.