NEWS21 July 2020

Government criticised for delays to online harms regulator

Covid-19 News UK

UK – The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport parliamentary select committee has called for an end to delays in appointing an online harms regulator following the publication of a report on online misinformation during Covid-19.


The report by the committee looks at misinformation online during the pandemic, including information on the spread of hoax treatments and conspiracy theories around 5G that have proliferated online and led to attacks on engineers.

The committee said that they were concerned about the government’s delays to putting into law the Online Harms White Paper, which includes a duty of care on technology firms and an independent Online Harms Regulator.

The white paper was published in April 2019, and MPs said they were worried that delaying the legislation would not address misinformation and disinformation online.

The committee’s report also found that tech companies used business models that allow people to monetise misleading content, while disincentivising action against misinformation.

This meant that the public was reliant on good will from the companies or media exposés to compel tech companies to act, according to the committee. 

Julian Knight MP, chair of the DCMS Committee, said: “The proliferation of dangerous claims about Covid-19 has been unstoppable. The leaders of social media companies have failed to tackle the infodemic of misinformation.

“The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated that without due weight of the law, social media companies have no incentive to consider a duty of care to those who use their services.”