In Brief

Should the UK adopt European-style fake news laws?

France, Germany and Ireland propose tough new rules designed to remove or block hateful posts and fabricated content

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While Theresa May has warned social media giants to shape up or face fines, France, Germany and Ireland are instituting new laws to target fake news.

Thousands of propaganda accounts on social networks are spreading “lies invented to tarnish political officials, personalities, public figures, journalists”, the French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday.

Macron wants France’s media watchdog CSA to have the power to fight destabilisation attempts by TV stations controlled or influenced by foreign states, which AFP calls a “veiled” reference to Moscow-backed RT and Sputnik. The French President also plans to unveil legislation to increase transparency about sponsored social media content. 

Germany already has a law that allows for fines of up to 50m euros (£45m) for social media platforms that fail to remove fake news and hateful posts within 24 hours of notification, according to The Guardian. Ireland’s Fianna Fail introduced a bill in December to tackle the rise of fake accounts and “orchestrated, anti-democratic online campaigns” on social media, the Irish Examiner says.

Ofcom, the UK media regulator, has said that businesses such as Google and Facebook should be classed as publishers, instead of conduits for information, “raising the prospect that they could eventually face more regulation,” the Guardian says. Social media posters could also find themselves on the end of a defamation claim, but so far there’s no specific UK law to tackle fake news.

Britain’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport select committee has threatened Facebook and Twitter with sanctions if they continue to stonewall parliament over requests for information about possible Russian interference in the Brexit vote, The Daily Telegraph reports.

“There has to be a way of scrutinising the procedures that companies like Facebook put in place to help them identify known sources of disinformation, particularly when it’s politically motivated and coming from another country,” Damian Collins, chair of the Department for Culture, Media & Sport select committee told the Guardian.

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