Julian Knight's Westminster Diary, 21/02/19

Solihull Mail.

This week Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee, on which I sit, published a damning new report into the role of social media in British society.

MPs from all the major parties have spent the past two years investigating how Facebook and other tech companies can undermine our democracy and expose vulnerable individuals to harm – and now we’ve set out tough proposals to start putting it right.

First, we want to make the social media giants sign up to a new code of ethics, backed up by a powerful independent regulator. This would oblige them to take down illegal or harmful content as quickly as possible – and punish them if they don’t.

We also want to introduce a new levy on the big tech companies and use it to beef up the Information Commissioner’s Office, who we have called on to launch an in-depth investigation into how Facebook uses (or misuses) its customers’ data.

Further reforms are needed to help protect our democratic process. Our report calls for rigorous new transparency rules for online campaigning, and an increase in the powers of the Electoral Commission to collect evidence and issue fines for inappropriate behaviour.

As a member of the Committee I have seen first-hand the harm that unregulated social media companies can do – and the huge level of global interest in our pioneering bid to bring them under control. When last year I called Facebook a “morality-free zone” whilst questioning its Chief Technical Officer, Mike Shroepfer, my comments were picked up by media outlets from all over the world.

In more local news, I am very pleased to report that over seven hundred local residents have so far signed my petition urging the Post Office to reconsider their plans to close and relocate their local branch in Mell Square.

I know from those of you that have got in touch with me about this that the proposals are the cause of a deal of worry here in Solihull, and at the end of the month I intend to present my petition to the House of Commons to highlight the strength of local feeling about this important local service.

Originally published in the Solihull Mail, 21/02/19.