Welsh Labour MP for Ogmore, Chris Elmore, has called on the UK Government to act “swiftly and decisively” in bringing forward vital new legislation to protect people online.
Chris, who is the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Media, spoke out this week during a debate in Parliament on the government’s new measures which are set to be formally put before Parliament early next year. Chris has been campaigning for greater safeguards online – particularly for young people – since he first established the cross-party group in 2018.
Over the summer, the Ogmore MP has grown increasingly concerned about the stark levels of misinformation that is now circulating online concerning the safety of potential vaccines to prevent the contraction of Covid-19.
A new report by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has lambasted social media companies for allowing the anti-vaccine movement to remain on their platforms. The report's authors noted that social media accounts held by so-called anti-vaxxers have increased their following by at least 7·8 million people since 2019. The CCDH warned that the growing movement could undermine the roll-out of any future vaccine against COVID-19.
The report noted that 31 million people follow anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, with 17 million people subscribing to similar accounts on YouTube. The CCDH calculated that the anti-vaccine movement could reap US$1 billion in annual revenues for social media firms. As much as $989 million could be earned by Facebook and Instagram alone, largely from advertising targeting the 38·7 million followers of anti-vaccine accounts.
Commenting after the debate, Chris Elmore MP said:
“The internet, and particularly social media platforms, have become a largely ungoverned Wild West. Identifying a clinically safe and effective vaccine could be as close as we are going to get to a “silver bullet” response to this crisis.
“Worryingly though, the online pandemic of dangerous disinformation we are now seeing circulate on social media risks undermining the public health pandemic we are currently in. The social media giants have shown time and time again that they will not act off their own backs to meet the duty of care they have to their users. It’s therefore ministers responsibility to mandate this duty of care through legislation.
“We’ve already waited far too long for the UK Government to bring forward its legislation on online harms – the crisis we are currently in has only undermined the urgency for ministers to act.”
Next Monday (19 November) Chris has secured an adjournment debate in Parliament to seek urgent government action on the anti-vax movement and he will be continuing to put pressure on ministers until these pressing issues are resolved.