Online abuse 'summit' needed to tackle spread of hate, says MSP

Mark Zuckerberg has called on government's to play a more active role in controlling internet content.
Mark Zuckerberg has called on government's to play a more active role in controlling internet content.
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A Muslim MSP who was sent a threatening white supremacist video has written to social media giants inviting them to Scotland to discuss tackling the spread of online hatred and abuse.

Scottish Labour MSP, Anas Sarwar, has invited Facebook and Twitter UK representatives to Scotland, to try and find solutions to social media platforms being used to "spread and amplify hateful views".

His invitation to a Scottish summit comes after he revealed he had been sent footage from a march and rally by a proscribed far-right group National Action, including a hate filled speech by one of its leaders. The message, attached to the video, said "no step back".

The video had been hosted on Youtube and Twitter until it was reported for hate speech and taken down.

Mr Sarwar, who is convener of Holyrood's Cross Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia, said the video was just one example of unrestricted social media being used by extremists, and also pointed to the live-streaming of the Christchurch mosque massacre, as another.

He said: “Social media platforms are being used to spread and amplify hateful views and - on occasion - glorify hate speech or violent hate incidents.

“Individual sites have a responsibility about what they are allowing to appear on their sites. In particular, companies must do more to combat racist comments that can be viewed by children on their sites.

“Social media can be a force for good in our world, and if we are to build more tolerant, hate-free societies, then it plays a crucial role in that. That’s why I have written to Facebook and Twitter with the intention of holding a summit later this year to work towards that goal.”

Mr Sarwar's invitation comes a day after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote in the Washington Post that responsibility for monitoring harmful content is too great for firms alone and called for new laws in four areas: "harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability."

He wrote: "Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree." He said Facebook was "creating an independent body so people can appeal our decisions" about what is posted and what is taken down.

He also said there should be a new set of rules enforced on tech companies, the same for all websites so that it's easier to stop "harmful content" from spreading quickly across platforms.

Mr Sarwar has written to Facebook and Twitter, and will also write to Google, which owns YouTube. If the summit can be arranged, Scottish ministers will also be invited to attend.