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London mayor asks Facebook, Twitter to act over abuse or face clampdown

Tim Ross | Bloomberg/ 12 Mar 18 | 10:13 AM

London Mayor Sadiq Khan

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is warning Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube they will face a potential clampdown from governments around the world if they fail to “go further and faster" in stopping online abuse.

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Speaking at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, on Monday, Khan will predict that other countries will follow Germany’s example of introducing fines for companies that fail to tackle the spread of racism, extremism, illegal content and fake news.

“There’s been a dereliction of duty on the part of politicians and policymakers to ensure that the rapid growth in technology is utilized and steered in a direction that benefits us all," Khan will say, according to extracts released by his office.

While welcoming steps that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have taken in response to criticism, Khan will add: “With the skills and resources these companies have at their disposal, I believe it’s possible to go further and faster."

The London mayor will make his case at a sensitive time for the social media industry in the U.K. A major parliamentary inquiry is underway into the spread of fake news and its influence on democracy, while British ministers want social media companies to do more to tackle extremism and abuse.

In the Times on Saturday, the U.K.’s Digital Secretary Matthew Hancock suggested imposing time limits to restrict the usage of social media platforms by teenagers.

In his speech in Austin, Khan is expected to cite evidence of elections and referendums being influenced, an increase in online abuse, fake news and radicalization, giving examples of what he considers racist tweets targeted at him.

“What we need to see is a stronger duty of care," he will say, according to the extracts. “If this doesn’t happen, then more countries will start to follow or go further than what Germany has done."

The German government has changed introduced fines of as much as 50 million euros ($61.6 million) for social media companies that fail to delete fake news and illegal content.

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