Tech giants such as Twitter and Facebook should plough a portion of their vast profits into initiatives designed to crackdown on the distribution of indecent images of children and online extremist content, a senior British police officer has said.
Durham Police Chief Constable Mike Barton said online platforms should do more to prevent this type of material appearing online in the first place, and must also take steps to halt widespread abuse and harassment on social media sties.
Noting that police across Britain are arresting hundreds of paedophiles every month for distributing or viewing indecent images of children online, Barton, the UK’s National Policing Lead for Crime Operations, questioned why it appears to be so difficult for internet firms to take down this type of material.
“[In light of] the range of criminality on the internet, the police can’t possibly do this,” Barton said.
“I don’t know whether [tech firms are] being dilatory, negligent, or whether or not they currently don’t have the capability to deal with it. It is their responsibility. Their eye-watering profits should be channelled into solving this.”
“[The companies] will say that the volumes of traffic on their platforms are so high it’s hard to find them. The volumes are so high so they earn eye-watering profits – reinvest those eye-watering profits.”
Barton stopped short of naming specific companies, noting that any he failed to mention might think they had been let off the hook, but made it clear that all technology firms have a responsibility to contribute to the policing of their hugely profitable platforms.
Noting the ease with which China is able to censor material from the internet, Barton said it must be possible to locate and remove criminal content.
Speaking in February, UK National Policing Lead for Child Protection Simon Bailey said paedophiles caught viewing indecent images of children online should be referred for counselling rather than pursued through the courts.
Bailey said this would free up police to pursue offenders who posed a physical risk to children. MPs and child abuse experts criticised the suggestion, with some questioning how officers could determine which consumers of abuse imagery might go on to seek out a child molest physically.
Last month, the UK and France announced new plans that could result in tech giants being fined if they fail to remove extremist content from their platforms.
“[T]he UK and France will work together to encourage corporations to do more and abide by their social responsibility to step up their efforts to remove harmful content from their networks, including exploring the possibility of creating a new legal liability for tech companies if they fail to remove unacceptable content,” British Prime Minster Theresa May said ahead of a visit to Paris.