Matt Hancock asserts that social media firms are not too big to regulate

Written by Matt Foster on 5 July 2018 in News
News

Culture secretary vows that ‘we pass laws and people abide by them’

 

Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

Culture secretary Matt Hancock has denied that big tech firms like Facebook and Google are too big to regulate ahead of a planned government clampdown.

Last month the Cabinet minister vowed to pass a string of new online safety laws in a bid to rein in social media abuse and the sharing of harmful content.

Hancock's department – DCMS – is currently working with the Home Office on plans to regulate the "Wild West" industry to tackle problems like cyberbullying and child sexual exploitation.

But the culture secretary pushed back against claims that British action alone would be useless at curbing the might of the massive tech companies, telling an audience in London: “We pass laws and then people abide by them.”

Hancock (pictured above) told an event hosted by website Politico that it was “ridiculous” to claim that a special exception should be made for tech firms because of their size and global reach.


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“There was an attitude that pervaded for maybe a generation that these companies are global and therefore you can't regulate them,” he said. “Not true. That these companies, the technology changes fast and therefore you can't regulate it. Not true. That people don't really understand and therefore we can't regulate it. Also – not true.”

He added: “Take any other industry where we say that, where companies are big and international. Take the oil industry or the car industry, right? Are we going to not regulate them because they're global? I mean what a ridiculous concept.”

Hancock said that while it was “better” to agree curbs on social media companies at a global level, he defended the right of the UK government to launch its own clampdown, and argued that tech firms themselves were crying out for guidance after a string of damaging scandals.

“By god, if, the UK as a society, represented legitimately through parliament and from parliament in government wants to do something, then that is what we do," he said. "It's called democracy.”

The culture secretary also revealed that he does not allow his own children to use Facebook, saying they were too young and he did not want them to breach the social media firm's terms of use.

The social network has come under fire in recent months after it was revealed that millions of users' data was passed to controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica without their consent.

Chief Mark Zuckerberg was forced to apologise for what he called the "biggest mistake" the company had made.

About the author

Matt Foster is news editor of PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared

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