Tougher methods needed to tackle online hate

A Teesside University expert in fascist ideology and the contemporary far right provided insight into a Government report which slams social media companies for failing to tackle illegal and threatening content, such as terror recruitment videos and online hate speech.

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Professor Matthew Feldman, from the University’s School of Design, Culture & the Arts, acted as an expert witness for the Home Affairs Select Committee when it was examining the far right and its dangerous consequences.

Appearing before MP's in Parliament on 10 January 2017, Professor Feldman was handpicked with a small number of other experts to provide analysis and evidence into how far right politics, and the various consequences of its online and offline activity.

The Home Affairs Select Committee has now published its report, ‘Hate crime: abuse, hate and online extremism’.

It concludes that the biggest, richest social media companies are ‘shamefully far’ from tackling illegal and dangerous content. Recommendations from the report include:

• Government should consult on stronger law and system of fines for companies that fail to remove illegal content
• Social media companies that fail to proactively search for and remove illegal material should pay towards costs of the police doing so instead
• Social media companies should publish regular reports on their safeguarding activity including the number of staff, complaints and action taken

The Committee also criticised social media companies for putting profit before safety — noting quick action is taken to remove content found to infringe copyright rules, but that the same prompt action is not taken when the material involves hateful or illegal content.

It found that terror recruitment videos for banned jihadi and neo Nazi groups were still live, even after being reported by the Committee.

Professor Feldman is Co-Director of Teesside University’s Centre for Fascist, Anti-fascist and Post-fascist Studies, a the UK’s only research unit dedicated to the study of the far right and its opposition.

A previous report by the centre found that almost three quarters of anti-Muslim incidents were taking place online.

Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: 'Social media companies’ failure to deal with illegal and dangerous material online is a disgrace. They have been asked repeatedly to come up with better systems to remove illegal material such as terrorist recruitment or online child abuse. Yet repeatedly they have failed to do so. It is shameful.'

She added: 'They continue to operate as platforms for hatred and extremism without even taking basic steps to make sure they can quickly stop illegal material, properly enforce their own community standards, or keep people safe.'

03 May 2017