Government Response to Committee's final report on Disinformation published

08 May 2019

The DCMS Committee has published the Government's Response to its final report on Disinformation and 'fake news'

  • Disinformation and ‘fake news’: Final Report: Government Response to the Committee's Eighth Report of Session 2017-19 HTML | PDF

Chair's Comments

Committee Chair Damian Collins MP said:

“Over 18 months and two reports, the DCMS Committee has shone light into the darker recesses of the online world where some social media companies have been allowed to consider themselves above the law, behaving like ‘digital gangsters’. That era of self-regulation is coming to an end.

“Today we’re publishing the Government’s response to our work. It has recognised the rigorous work we carried out which provided much of the evidence upon which the White Paper on Online Harms is based.  I’m pleased to see that the majority of our recommendations on how to regulate social media companies have been accepted. Particularly, the need for independent regulation, the need to make companies legally responsible for monitoring and removing harmful and illegal content, and the threat of substantial fines to force companies to act.

“Our newly launched Sub-Committee on Disinformation will continue to monitor the Government’s plans to carry out the action it has outlined in dealing with threats that disinformation poses to our political democracy. Members of the Committee will have the opportunity to question DCMS Secretary Jeremy Wright about his plans during his appearance before the Select Committee this afternoon.”

Government Response

On making tech companies responsible and liable:
  • The Committee’s welcomes Government’s agreement of the need for a new regulatory framework for social media companies, with a statutory Duty of Care to protect users and Codes of Practice to ensure companies meet their legal responsibilities, as set out in its White Paper on Online Harms.
  • Giving the regulator sufficient powers to act on failures to remove harmful or illegal content is critical, and we are pleased that the Government has agreed with our recommendation on the ability to impose substantial fines when breaches occur.
  • We are disappointed that the Government has rejected our call to create a new category of tech company that is neither a platform, nor publisher, allowing for a tightening of tech companies’ responsibilities.
  • On Facebook, our report concluded it was evident that the company “intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws.” It is surprising that in its response, the Government fails to address our call for a detailed investigation into Facebook’s practices.
  • Our interim report highlighted Facebook’s unwillingness to be accountable to global regulators. It called for a review of the impact powerful tech companies make on democracy. The Government’s response fails to directly address this challenge.

On changing the rules on political campaigning:

  • Committee welcomes action by Government on our recommendation for a comprehensive audit of the advertising market on social media.
  • The Government’s White Paper draws on the evidence we presented for greater transparency of online political campaigning with a code of practice to tackle disinformation.
  • The Government has also announced plans for a digital imprint on political advertising to be introduced this year.

Foreign interference:

  • The Government supports our recommendation that social media companies must be open and transparent when foreign interference has taken place on their sites, accepting that disinformation is a threat to the values and principles of UK.
  • The Committee recommended a review of current legislation in protecting the electoral process from malign influence, however the Government response fails to mention any specific action around foreign influence in democratic processes.

Further information

Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will give oral evidence to the Committee at 14.15, today Wednesday 8 May.
The DCMS Committee’s final report into Disinformation and ‘fake news’ was published in February.

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