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Make clear the responsibility of platforms to enable the reporting of harmful content

Last updated: 11:13am 18 January 2019

We will make clear the responsibility of platforms to enable the reporting of inappropriate, bullying, harmful or illegal content, with take-down on a comply-or-explain basis.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.79

Our verdict

Bullying, abuse, a lack of accountability and the increasing use of the internet have all fed into a widely perceived need to regulate the internet to ensure the safety of users.

In October 2017,  the government published its Internet Safety Strategy green paper. In it, the government announced its intention to facilitate the reporting of harmful online content by users. It proposed the creation of a voluntary social media code of practice for online media companies, which could extend to developing reporting mechanisms for harmful content. Additionally, it advocated the use of a comply-or-explain model to ensure that harmful content is taken down.

Following the green paper, the government’s response was published in May 2018, and the results of the consultation were shown to support many of its proposals. As a result, the government developed its plans for a social media code of practice which would include responsibilities for companies to provide information about how to report harmful content, as well as to signpost information on how to respond in such an instance. Additionally, the draft code states that, “Platforms should give users explanations on a ‘comply or explain’ basis if content remains after they have reported it”.

This policy is on its way to being ‘done’. However, the code of practice is still at draft stage and until it is up and running, this remains ‘in progress’. The government promised a white paper by the end of 2018 (which is still yet to appear) to “set out more definitive steps on online harms and safety”.  We’ll be watching for that next step in moving this manifesto pledge forwards. Follow this policy for the latest developments.

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