back to article Loadsamoney: UK mulls fining Facebook, Twitter, Google for not washing away filth, terror vids

An influential panel of UK MPs have proposed fining the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter if they fail to remove illegal content within a certain timeframe. Parliament's Home Affairs Committee published a report on Monday that was highly critical of the US tech giants for failing to take down content such as terrorist or …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Odds are this wont see court.

    But while these MPs are thinking about such matters, how about fining these companies for tax evasion?

  2. Anonymous C0ward

    Facebook doesn't have to provide free speech

    It's a private company. The First Amendment restricts the government.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Facebook doesn't have to provide free speech

      Point being made *here* was that the US government can't force Facebook to remove such material- not that Facebook can't do it to their users.

    2. Edward Clarke

      Re: Facebook doesn't have to provide free speech

      You are correct - almost. Restricting by deletion makes Facebook/Google/Twitter responsible for content that is uploaded according to the DMCA. Every time some idiot posts that Trump's parents included a mutated butternut squash... Facebook/Google/Twitter would then be open to a libel suit. Who would you rather sue? Kid-In-A-Basement or Google?

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Facebook doesn't have to provide free speech

        The whole question of responsibility probably needs to be addressed.

        If I make an abusive telephone call, the phone company is not liable but (I think) they are obliged to help the police figure out who I am if the recipient makes a complaint. (Even if they aren't obliged, they'd probably reckon it was lousy PR not to, since the connection records are there.) However, a phone line is one-to-one and the scope for abuse of such "user generated content" is limited.

        Likewise, I could post abuse through snail mail (and people *have* posted anthrax and explosives). Again, however, it is hard to make a habit of this without the police eventually catching up with you.

        As a social pariah, I would be better off abusing the internet, where one good troll can reach millions with almost complete anonymity. Here also, the intermediary is (apparently) not liable, but also (apparently) needn't have any measures in place to help track down the culprit. (Yeah, you can close the account, but I can open another one the next day and carry on.)

        I'd argue that this has seriously upset the historic balance between the rights of individuals to say stuff and the rights of other individuals to ignore it. The current situation appears to allow internet companies to make money out of anti-social behaviour. That can't last.

        If the last 20 years of political threats are anything to go by, internet companies should not presume that their business models are protected by natural law. We will continue to have politicians suggesting solutions that they have dreamt up until we (in the technically literate community) come up EITHER with technical solutions of our own OR with sufficiently detailed audit trails that the existing legal deterrents are once again effective.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: Facebook doesn't have to provide free speech

          The current situation appears to allow internet companies to make money out of anti-social behaviour. That can't last.

          Probably most literature, certainly a large portion of it, could be said to promote "anti-social behaviour" in varying definitions. Rock must has been around for decades, and other music that promotes "anti-social behaviour" could be traced back a lot further.

          "Promoting anti-social behaviour" is actually a very good business model, and has been for a very long time. People get rich off this, and have for centuries.

          As to checks. Google now requires a phone number for a gmail account (or at least another email which is then tied to the account), is a pain for using away-from-home. FB can probably still be accessed using a fakemail account, but for how long? And if people have to move from FB to get their jollies, then they'll go elsewhere.

          IT would be nice to see some way to get rid of the truly nasty stuff. But as always the issue.. What is your speech promoting values you hold dear is some government's example of why they need to be able to lock you up forever or execute you (or a nearby innocent wedding party) at once.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Facebook doesn't have to provide free speech

      It's a private company. The First Amendment restricts the government.

      ..and the article is about the UK - which doesn't have a 1st Amendment. Or a 2nd. Or, in fact, any.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "unexpectedly called by prime minister Theresa May last week."

    Unexpected to who exactly? She needed a strong and stable™ government in case charges were brought against the MP's that flouted the law with regards to election funding. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it was the same bus that was used by the leave campaign. Never underestimate the power of buses in forming public opinion. Only last week I saw an advert for Bernard Matthews on a bus and now I'm turkeyed up to the eyeballs.

    Back to the story, the only thing that will change is that posts will be removed first and then moderated. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't do a Wikipedia and get their own users to do it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You only managed to shoehorn one 'strong and stable'. You're fired.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Strong & Stable

        Strong and stable, as in thick as a plank? They are strong and stable.

        http://newsthump.com/2017/05/02/eu-dinner-was-strong-and-stable-claims-theresa-may/

        (apologies in advance for the click-baity nature of that site's adverts)

      2. Michael Strorm

        Strong and Stable.

        A large, vacant hotel lobby. Philip Hammond slowly walks over to the table where Theresa May has been typing out the new Conservative Party election manifesto.

        As he gets closer, he is able to read the piece of paper in the typewriter. It contains nothing but the words "Strong and Stable" repeated over and over again, all the way down the page.

        As he pulls the paper out of the typewriter, his eye falls over a stack of completed pages. The sheet on top also reads nothing but "Strong and Stable". He starts rifling through the sheets below.

        Each and every one says nothing but "strong and stable", repeatedly- a variety of arrangements, the occasional typo or wonky letter here and there, but otherwise identical.

        Faster and faster he works his way through them. Hundreds of sheets full of nothing but "Strong and Stable".

        Hammond jumps as he becomes aware of May watching behind him.

        "What do you think, Wendy?" she asks, grinning maniacally under her forehead.

        "Looks good to me," replies Hammond. "I'll get it sent off to the printers tonight".

    2. sebt
      Coat

      Strong and Stable(TM)

      The true origin of this infuriating catchphrase has been uncovered by the brave investigative reporters at the Mash:

      http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/politics/politics-headlines/may-admits-she-got-strong-and-stable-from-leaflet-about-erectile-dysfunction-20170428126823

      (mine's the one with the blue pills in the pocket)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Strong and Stable(TM)

        You take the red pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.

        You take the blue pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

        Haha, I made you think about Theresa May's rabbit hole.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it just me..

    .. or have politicians stumbled upon "alternative tax", a method of extracting money from these companies that they can't hide from as they do with tax?

    If so, that's clever, because 99% of these outfits make a profit by bending the rules so it serves two purposes at once.

    Caveat: don't take this as me thinking that politicians do this for the common good - someone has to pay their salaries and by the looks of it, the peasantry hasn't got much left..

  5. Simon Ward

    Amber "Hashtag" Fudd strikes again ...

    Let me know how that works out for you, eh?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Amber "Hashtag" Fudd strikes again ...

      Is that the one that's planning on hiring 250,000 new cops at and annual salary of £8000? Or was it something else?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Amber "Hashtag" Fudd strikes again ...

        Is that you Amber? Or just someone not up on the latest news headlines?

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Dick Turpin wore a Mask. The System thinks itself above such Deceit. That be Catastrophic Conceit

    Is this The Way that inept and corrupt governments "grow the economy' to allow them the freedom to steal and squander unreal sums of surreal funds on pet projects which will be forever charged with crippling interest payments, keeping international banking system ponzis afloat and supported by future ignorant generations .... the mass fining of novel operations/anti-establishment models of remote virtual reality presentation ..... future product placement?

    What sort of a fool would accept that kind of a perverse virtual reality play? A right sub-prime idiot and ignorant tool of a machine/a bot? Yes, of course, who/what else. Such though does require that one be continually kept fully unaware of the true nature of the existence promoted by media for presentation, and that's fully at odds with the superior nature and active role of emerging and advanced intelligence in and for services and servers, is it not?

    Yes, it is, and therefore it is a fantastic folly which will crash catastrophically in a flash.

  7. tiggity Silver badge

    I wonder how the govt would like it if US sites were being massively fined by other countries due to hosting stuff that is OK in the UK, but a no no somewhere else, as the Tories love to demonize Islam, lets take some things that an extreme Isis ideology regime might want to ban e.g. promotion of no religion, women not dressing modestly, drawings of Mohammad etc. I think the Tories would be in a frenzy if massive fines were aimed at UK companies for promoting woman's equality / rights. With global information cannot simultaneously apply teh censorship of all countries or nothing much would be left (bar cat pics, they will survive to the heat death of the universe)

    All a FB, Twitter or whoever could do would be geoblock (as article mentioned freedom of speech allows plenty of stuff to be legal in US that UK would like to ban) - and with VPN (appropriately hosted) usage, a geoblock is essentially useless.

    Also allows too much creeping political censorship (I'm not going to trot out the cliche of one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter), but instead the cliche of give them an inch and they'll take a mile.

    Start off with things that people will agree are vile and should be removed (easy obvious options are kiddie abuse) and then gradually broaden the scope of what is banned, bit by bit and soon most dissenting voices are terrorists (ask some environmental, peace or animal rights activist how quickly you get branded a terrorist & prosecuted accordingly for relatively minor activities (I'm talking criminal damage style acts not some of the more violent ALF actions)).

    1. Alister Silver badge

      (I'm not going to trot out the cliche of one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter),

      you just did...

      :)

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        "you just did"

        I think it's called paralepsis

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      as the Tories most people love to demonize Islam - Fixed it for you.

      It is little wonder that most people are not happy with the Islamic state when you consider the states total disregard for anything that does not fit their way of thinking, including people having the right to not be molested because they are considered second class people.

      1. batfink Silver badge

        So, in your world, Islamic state == Islam then? I suspect there are about 1.6bn muslims who would disagree with you.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "So, in your world, Islamic state == Islam then?"

          I still maintain that the Western media played into their hands by using their own self-chosen English acronym instead of sticking to "Daesh".

          Every time the name "Islamic State" is used- regardless of whether it's prefixed with "so-called" as a disclaimer- it reinforces a mental connection with Islam which in turn lends (completely undeserved) weight to their own self-propagandising claim of representing Islam.

          "Daesh" isn't an English acronym and doesn't have flattering connotations. They might not care about the latter, but at least it's not bolstering their own propaganda.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      "and with VPN (appropriately hosted) usage, a geoblock is essentially useless."

      You're focussing on the technical and looking for a perfect solution.

      Use of a VPN to cross between separate legal jurisdictions is the information equivalent of importing or exporting goods. We've had the latter for centuries and dealt with it fairly effectively under the law for just as long, even when long land boundaries make enforcement practically impossible. It wouldn't be *that* hard to pass a law saying that anyone running a VPN end-point in jurisdiction X is liable under the laws of X for whatever comes through. They can offset that liability by policing who is able to use the end-point and by offering reasonable investigative assistance if a customer is naughty.

      And no, it *wouldn't* be a shocking infringement your rights, anymore than existing laws against smuggling are an infringement of your god-given right to avoid paying duty on imports.

    4. Someone Else Silver badge
      Big Brother

      @tiggity

      I think the Tories would be in a frenzy if massive fines were aimed at UK companies for promoting woman's equality / rights.

      I dunno. From this side of the Pond, it seems that there some Torries (much like some of our Republicans) that would be quite alright with that.

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "I think the Tories would be in a frenzy if massive fines were aimed at UK companies for promoting woman's equality / rights. "

      If they do so in a jurisdiction where that is illegal and have a physical or financial presence in said jurisdiction, then yes, they will be fined, either judicially or via extra-judicial bribes. If Facebook et al had no physical or financial presence in the UK and were not making large amounts of money from UK advertisers, then they could quite legitimately tell the Uk Gov to fuck off. UK gov would than have to accept that end either negotiate with Trump to get action or block Facebook. The crucial point being having a physical presence in the relevant jurisdiction.

  8. FuzzyWuzzys

    Companies run by a by a bunch of immature children

    Of course nothing will happen but assuming it did, it's about time these overgrown "student projects" were brought under control. They were started in bedrooms, simply development ideas and toys, they've exploded and unfortunately they're still run by the same immature people who started them. They have no idea bout running a company responsibly and all they care about it churning over the advertising revenue for the shareholders and racking up the potential for their share options. These companies like Facebook and Twitter need to be given a bloody good slap, told to grow up a bit and take responsibility for the effect they're no having on the world.

    They're private companies and while they should act responsibly but they'll never learn, they'll just carry on thinking they can run a multi-billion dollar company with global reach, like a bit of a laugh, like they're still in college.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Companies run by a by a bunch of immature children

      all they care about it churning over the advertising revenue

      shareholders

      I dunno , I think you've just described pretty much all companies there

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Companies run by a by a bunch of immature children

        I dunno , I think you've just described pretty much all companies there

        Wrong - most companies make and sell something "real". Advertising is a useful tool for them, but Google have turned advertising into a form of global blackmail. If you don't pay the Google tax, your company won't appear in search results, or on the map, or on whatever service they invent next.

  9. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "Interior minister Heiko Maas"

    Close. He's Minister of Justice (Justitzminister).

    Thomas de Maizière is the Minister of the Interior (Innenminister).

  10. Justice
    WTF?

    So...

    If someone posts a video of themselves being racially abused to highlight the attack and someone else reports the video for showing racial violence... who wins?

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: So...

      How many of those people being beheaded or burnt to death by isis do you think put the video on themselves?

  11. The Nazz Silver badge

    Suppose for a moment ...

    That a typical UK company, let's say Marks and Spencers decided to host wholly inapproriate and illegal content on their website(s). I dunno, let's say hate speech, terrawrist information guides etc what would the law do then? Act quickly i would suppose.

    How difficult can it be for the majority of 649* ( yes, even the SNP) right minded fair thinking MP's to get together and quickly pass a law making the executives of a company/organisation criminally responsible for it's acts/it's irresponsible negligence to act? Hours, days at most.

    *i've disallowed the Lib Dem guy, previously of Bradford East, who's now been deselected. The one of "firing rockets into Israel" infamy.

    Edit : Re Company's Tax Evasion, rather avoidance. Don't lose sight of the fact that the vast majority, if not all, companies play precisely to the rules and laws as enacted by the very same 650 MP's (ok the names may vary, a little).

    NEVER forget that many of these were newly written, and existing ones certainly endorsed, by Nu-Labour,especially that Gordon "I saved the fucking world" Brown clown.

  12. batfink Silver badge
    FAIL

    Illegal where?

    As Tiggity says: what laws are they supposed to operate under? What if something is fine in, say China, but illegal in the UK? Why should the Chinese not be able to view something that's perfectly legal for them? If it was posted on a Chinese Facebook equivalent, would the UK gummint still try to fine them? I know what our reaction would be if the Chinese gummint tried to fine fb for showing something that's legal here but not there.

    Whether "we" find something offensive doesn't make it universal.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Illegal where?

      "I know what our reaction would be if the Chinese gummint tried to fine fb for showing something that's legal here but not there."

      This sort of thing happens all the time. Lots of companies are done for things that are crimes in one country but not in others.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Illegal where?

        um , location based rules I guess.

        They are computer programmers after all.....

  13. fobobob

    Typo correction

    *lodsofemone

  14. Chris G Silver badge

    La La La La La La

    I can't hear it, I can't see it!

    Do these morons think the world's problems are going to go away if they are not visible on the internet?

    I realise actually trying to address the problems of the world with socially responsible action (rather than invading anyone you don't like) is much more difficult than holding a third party responsible but getting the money out of them could be way harder.

    They haven't done too well tax collecting have they? I haven't even heard a good argument from the UK government explaining WHY they should pay tax, even if it is obvious they should.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: La La La La La La

      "holding a third party responsible but getting the money out of them could be way harder."

      I think the point, as per the article, is that Facebook et al are not even trying to enforce their own community guidelines and this may be one method to get Facebook et al to at least try to do so instead of using the Ts&Cs as a feel-good fig leaf.

  15. Someone Else Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Of course...

    The report comes just weeks after an attack in the heart of London left five people dead and many more injured. That incident led to numerous criticisms of the role of social media companies in hosting extremist material and a quick meeting of tech companies with the prime minister that was criticized for achieving nothing.

    Yup...I'm sure that your blokes in Parliament there on the right side of the Pond will come up with a proper, objective, repeatable definition of "extremist material" that won't trample on anyone's rights, copyrights, or property rights. No doubt at all....

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Of course...

      "Yup...I'm sure that your blokes in Parliament there on the right side of the Pond will come up with a proper, objective, repeatable definition of "extremist material" that won't trample on anyone's rights, copyrights, or property rights. No doubt at all...."

      Correct. I have to live with their decisions, and I don't trust them one iota. But I trust Facebook to enforce their own Ts&Cs even less.

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Of course...

      @Someone Else

      Yup...I'm sure that your blokes in Parliament there on the right side of the Pond will come up with a proper, objective, repeatable definition of "extremist material" that won't trample on anyone's rights, copyrights, or property rights. No doubt at all....

      We already have. That's not the problem. Laws setting out what "speech" is permitted and what is not have been on the books in all European countries including the UK for several decades.

      These laws are generally not contentious in European countries, because most normal people understand there have to be limitations on speech for the benefit of a civil and settled society. It boils down to good manners being encoded into law.

      At the same time such laws also preserve the freedom of political commentary.

      The problem is that Google, Facebook, etc have thus far had a free ride in ignoring such laws, but that's beginning to change. This is European countries deciding that they're no longer going to permit the mess generated by such companies' wilful and profitable misinterpretation of the 1st amendment from spilling over into their own societies.

  16. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Definition

    The underlying problem with these imbecilic ideas is how to define 'hate speech', etc. Outside of a few very obvious edge cases, it is not that obvious. Also, most of these mental deficients do not realize that a different administration/government will have differing ideas and might decide some of the deficients are guilty of 'hate speech'. This is one of those cases were leaving it alone is likely the only workable policy.

  17. WolfFan Silver badge

    Yup...I'm sure that your blokes in Parliament there on the far, far right side of the Pond will come up with a proper, objective, repeatable definition of "extremist material" that won't trample on anyone's rights, copyrights, or property rights. No doubt at all....

    Fixed it for you.

    Exits, humming the Horst Wessel Lied.

  18. YARR
    Megaphone

    Ever-expanding definition of "extremism" and "hate speech"

    The right to express opinions with which other people disagree is a fundamental right of a free society. As many have predicted, it seems that censorship laws are to be expanded, limiting the free expression of hatred, because our politicians find it easier to submit to lobbying than upholding principles.

    The linked report explicitly mentions "Antisemitic hate crime" and indeed earlier this year Theresa May adopted a new definition of anti-semitism into British law, yet any law which grants special recognition or rights to one group is discriminatory. In my opinion, if any group should be granted special recognition and protection in law, it should be the indiginous / first-nation British people who have no homeland elsewhere to flee. If Jews believe they should be entitled to special recognition, perhaps they should lead by example, by granting equivalent recognition and rights to minority groups in Israel.

  19. Breen Whitman

    By extension, then, police should be fined for crimes that take place in the streets.

    For the really big ones like terrorist attacks they should see jail time.

    For not doing enough and allowing them to happen.

  20. mike360

    Doesn't it strike anyone else as odd that they leave Isis videos on there, yet censor anything conservative? It's almost like they (Facebook etc) have an agenda.*places tin foil neatly around cap*

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      The True Emperor is a Naked Force of Almighty Source, Invisible and Omniscient

      It's almost like they (Facebook etc) have an agenda.*places tin foil neatly around cap*.... mike360

      Anyone who can think they be anybody and can accept being a nobody and a somebody has an agenda, mike360. A curse for some but a blessing for others with the difference being defined at a level of intelligence which does not suffer the folly of fools fielding and wielding blunt tools.

      And it is they and that which corrupt and perverse operating systems/SCADA administrations do vain battle against to reveal their every vulnerability for ruthless exploitation.

  21. Kiwi Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Aside from recommending a "system of fines," the report recommends that social media companies be obliged to "proactively search for and remove illegal material." If they refuse, the report proposes that the UK police do the job and effectively bill the companies for their time.

    A couple of weeks back I posted about FB's 300 million photo uploads per day, and some outaa-my-arse numbers about how many people it would take to police that. Guess the UK is going to wipe out their (and their neighbour's) unemployment problems.

    You can kill such sites, or you can risk stuff you don't like and even illegal material getting through, getting reported, and staying there a little while till someone can do something about them. Even if only 0.1% of those photos are reported as illegal, that's still 3,000 per day that should be looked at, and in context decided on if it's legal or not. Then there's the jurisdictional etc issues. Eg I could marry a 16yo boy (or girl) tomorrow, and post wedding pictures and talk about it on FB (though I would have to lower myself to have a FB account!). Perfectly legal in NZ, but in many countries such things would be illegal whether because the age of consent is higher than 16 or because talking about homosexual relationships in a positive light is illegal.

    It's not a thing that can be simply legislated away by politicians.

    The report comes just weeks after an attack in the heart of London left five people dead and many more injured. That incident led to numerous criticisms of the role of social media companies in hosting extremist material and a quick meeting of tech companies with the prime minister that was criticized for achieving nothing.

    Yup. If social media hadn't been around, Cain wouldn't have killed Abel. Nor would Hone Heke and his band of followers caused so much havoc for the colonialists here in NZ. And wasis name, daring to destroy church property by nailing his list f demands to doors, and the fighting he incited and instigated!

    Thing is guys, lone ranger "terrorist" (I use the word in it's losest and most disgusting meaning possible - someone fighting using non-conventional methods against a much larger force or belief system etc) types have been around almost since the beginning of time, with several examples in the Bible alone (some good guys some not). Ambushing invading armies, dropping bridges as they cross and so on - stuff that parallels modern "terrorist" IEDs and the like.

    Oh, as to automated checks.. Well, software is going to flag this message of mine. You see, someone could put a phrase like "I think the US president should be assasinated by the end of the year" - that should trip all sorts of systems. A human then needs to check it, and they'll find that I don't mean it in the sense of "someone should kill him" but in the sense of "I think it's likely", same vein as "I should be there by 2:30 tomorrow if the roads are OK". Messages can talk of "its the bomb!" and you need to check based on keyword - am I talking of blowing up the white house or am I saying that my car is really good (compared with the older "It's a bomb!" which means "My car is a Ford and thus sucks donkey balls". But, all over the world, alarms are going off and several people in TLA organisations are rushing to check my post to see if it is a terrorist plot to blow up the white house and kill Donald Trump, or someone just waffling on in an exceeding long example of how tough such things can be.

    (FTR, I think DT should be impeached, and kept around as an example to the world of how to make a mess of things and get stopped before going to far, and left to rot somewhere and fade away from public view. For him, the worst thing would be to be forgotten and not have the power to remind people of who he is. And while I think it's getting close to time to "water the tree of liberty", I personally hate bloodshed even though sometimes I can see it seems to be about the only option, I'd rather the US comes to its senses, kicks the current nasties out and starts from scratch.)

    I wonder if the UK government has figured that out? Hopefully after the next election some reality will kick in. One can dream.

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