Call for digital platforms to be subject to same rules as publishers

30 May 2017

Search engines which aggregate news produced by others are evading their responsibility over the content they publish, according to renowned actor and presenter Stephen Fry.

Giving his views on how the internet should be reformed at Hay literary festival in the UK, Fry argued that digital platforms like Facebook and Google should have the same legal responsibilities as traditional publishers. He accused these platforms of refusing to "take responsibility for those dangerous, defamatory, inflammatory and fake items whose effects will have legal consequences for traditional printed or broadcast media, but which they can escape”.

The British presenter argued that having the same responsibilities as publishers would encourage the platforms to better police their content "for unacceptable libels, defamations, threats and other horrors".

“One thesis I could immediately nail up to the tent flag is to call for aggregating news agencies like Facebook to be immediately classified as publishers. At the moment, they are evading responsibility for their content as they can claim to be platforms, rather than publishers. Given that they are now a major source of news for 80% of the population, that is clearly an absurd anomaly,” he said.

The European Union is currently debating a number of proposals conferring greater responsibility on online platforms, for example regarding the removal of hate speech and other objectionable content.

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