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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Tech giants failing youth over cyberbullying: report

Nearly half of youngsters aged 11-25 say they have been sent threatening of intimidating messages by text or social media

Social media companies are not responding adequately to incidents of cyber bullying, a new report has found. Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg News
Social media companies are not responding adequately to incidents of cyber bullying, a new report has found. Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg News

The full extent of cyberbullying is impossible to assess because of the failure of social media companies to record and tackle the problem, according to a new British report released on Monday.

Nearly two-thirds of people aged 11-25 surveyed for the report said they had been bullied online and many complained that tech giants had failed to make their platforms safe. Nearly half had been sent threatening or nasty messages, according to the study by MPs and children’s charities.

The study called on social media companies to respond to complaints of bullying within 24 hours and for the government to impose rules requiring them to report data on the scale of the problem.

“Cyberbullying can devastate young lives, but to date the response from social media companies has been tokenistic and inadequate,” said ruling party lawmaker Alex Chalk who led the inquiry.

“For too long they have been marking their own homework and it’s time they become far more transparent, robust and accountable.”

The inquiry heard from experts who said that the industry had not shown the “leadership, appetite or innovation” to tackle cyberbullying or harassment.

The report said it was almost impossible to assess the scale of the issue as social media companies did not consistently record the full extent and nature of the complaints.

In evidence to the inquiry, Facebook said it has a “particular focus” on anti-bullying measures and takes extra precautions for teenagers. “Our anti-bullying policy makes clear we remove content that appears to purposefully target private individuals with the intention of degrading or shaming them,” it said. Other companies including Google, Snapchat and Twitter said they took robust action against those involved in bullying.

The report is just the latest to criticise social media companies for failing to take action against illegal or extremist material on their platforms.

A committee of UK lawmakers is already considering what action the UK can take against social media companies over hate crime and the proliferation of extremist material online.

A panel of experts told MPs earlier this month that they backed regulation of the tech giants saying they had not done enough to remove abusive messages online.

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