Following the death of a teenager who had viewed some content about suicide on social media online, Britain’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has come out and said the country must work together with social media companies to stop such incidents from occurring. If this can’t be done then there’s the threat of an outright ban.
Speaking to the BBC, the official said:
If we think they need to do things they are refusing to do, then we can and we must legislate.
Hancock also said that ultimately the British parliament does have the sanction to ban social but he did make it clear that they would rather not end up there.
The minister wrote an open letter to social media companies and hopefully, this will force them to take proactive steps to reduce harmful content on their platforms:
It is appalling how easy it still is to access this content online and I am in no doubt about the harm this material can cause, especially for young people. It is time for internet and social media providers to step up and purge this content once and for all.
The British government will also develop a whitepaper that seeks to address some of these online harms.
The freedom of speech & expression conundrum
People who post harmful content have for a long time hidden under their rights to freedom of speech and expression. This is what makes it so difficult for social media companies to govern or take down certain kinds of posts after they have been uploaded. We see it everywhere. In comments sections such as ours and every other medium which allows people to communicate, there are always some users who are keen on abusing others and it makes sense that governments want to intervene now.
In Zimbabwe, we recently saw both Masiyiwa’s leave Twitter after being cyberbullied on the platform. Last year we also saw the President’s spokesperson abandon the cite due to similar issues. Just browsing through interactions on most social sites, you come across many forms of cyberbullying and I can’t help but feel that these platforms bring out the worst of people.
For all the benefits that have been brought about by social media there are some dark pitfalls and if the companies behind these platforms cannot regulate these platforms it is understandable why governments would now want to step in and use legislation.