Parents’ warning over law giving web giants duty of care
FACEBOOK, Google and Twitter will have a legal duty of care to users under laws due to be set out next week.
The tough measure is a victory for online safety campaigners, who want the web giants to clamp down on the vile material on their platforms.
But yesterday the mother of a girl who killed herself after viewing ‘suicide porn’ on Facebook spoke out. Ruth Moss, whose daughter Sophie died aged 13 in 2014, was one of a group of parents and victims who penned an emotional letter to the Government.
They warned ministers not to take a ‘halfhearted approach’ in a long-awaited Online Harms White Paper.
According to well-placed sources, the white paper will impose a statutory duty of care on technology firms.
It has been delayed due to disputes between ministers about whether it was a threat to freedom of expression and whether it could prevent reporting on serious social issues. In their letter, the parents wrote: ‘Enough is enough. Some of us are parents who have seen social media play a part in our children being groomed, murdered, or taking their own life. Some of us are victims who were just children when we were callously groomed online and left feeling worthless and ashamed.’
The letter has also been signed by Gemma Ward, who was groomed and then raped by a man she met on Twitter when she was 15, and by Lorin LaFave whose son Beck Badner was murdered by a grooming gang he met through an online game. The other signatories are Lucy Alexander, whose son Felix took his own life after being bullied relentlessly online and at school, and Danielle Armitage, who was 14 when she was groomed online by a paedophile who went on to threaten her family with violence. They spoke of their heartache and their hope that others do not ‘have to suffer like we have’ because of weak laws.
The NSPCC has said the web giants should face criminal charges and fines of up to £20million or 4 per cent of their global turnover – whichever is larger.
Insiders say the white paper will suggest that directors of technology firms are made personally liable for material on their platforms. But it will stop short of saying it should definitely happen, it is understood. Campaigners have also raised fears that it will not do enough to combat material that is harmful but technically legal.
Baroness Kidron, a lobbyist for child safety online, said: ‘Talk to teachers, talk to doctors, talk to parents.
‘Anyone working with children understands that we have created a technology that creates conflict, amplifies misery and turns children into underage adults.
‘It doesn’t have to be like this, you could use the same technology to help children flourish. What we are witnessing is corporate greed.
‘The white paper is an opportunity to tackle it head on. It is important to act now, and act firmly.’
A spokesman for the Department, of Culture, Media and Sport said it will ‘set out the responsibilities of online platforms, how these responsibilities should be met and what would happen if they are not’.
They added: ‘We have heard calls for an internet regulator and to place a statutory duty of care on platforms.’