Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright discussed disinformation and social media regulation with Mark Zuckerberg during a rare meeting with the Facebook boss yesterday.
Wright MP met with the tech billionaire in San Francisco, California, following his repeated refusals to appear before Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee during its fake news inquiry.
Wright said there is a “good understanding that the UK Government wants to keep its citizens safe online and will be putting in place structures that no longer rely on self-regulation” following the encounter.
Ahead of his meeting with Zuckerberg, which was also attended by digital and creative industries minister Margot James, Wright said he would bring up the spread of so-called “fake news” and disinformation on the social network as well as online harms.
The Tory MP’s visit follows recent publication of two major reports in the UK which explored the relationship between Facebook and news journalism – the Cairncross Review into a sustainable future for journalism and the DMCS Committee’s fake news inquiry final report.
It also lands ahead of a Government white paper on online harms, set to be published later this month, that is expected to set out new structures for dealing with disinformation on the web.
In a statement about the meeting, Wright said: “I’m pleased that we’ve had this engagement and been able to speak to Mark Zuckerberg directly about our thinking on the forthcoming white paper.
“The Government’s objective is designing an effective system, and it was useful to speak to him and his team about this in some detail.”
Facebook global policy vice president Joel Kaplan said: “We’re pleased to have had a positive and productive conversation with the Secretary of State and Minister on Thursday and hope they found the discussion equally fruitful.
“We welcome the constructive and evidence based approach the UK Government is taking on these issues, and we talked about the ways in which Facebook has been investing in people and technology to keep everyone, especially young people, safe on our platforms.”
He added: “We support meaningful regulation and we are hopeful that the UK Government’s forthcoming online harms white paper represents a serious attempt to tackle the issues in a coherent way.
“We look forward to continuing to work together to get this right and of course we will work within any subsequent legislation.”
Wright also met with other platforms – including Twitter, Google and Youtube – during his trip to the US.
The DCMS Committee’s fake news inquiry has pushed for a new code of ethics for social media companies to be set up and overseen by a new regulator.
It recommended that the new regulator has the power to take legal action against social media firms and is able to issue “large fines”.
The Cairncross Review made nine recommendations to save the UK news indsutry. It said a regulator should oversee social media platforms to improve efforts to identify trustworthy news sources, arguing the job was “too important to leave entirely to the judgement of commercial entities”.
Wright described the Cairncross Review as an “important milestone” and said its proposed code of conduct between news outlets and platforms over commercial deals around content deserved “full consideration” by the Government
Picture: Reuters/Stephen Lam