February 17, 2020
PM’s spokesman says industry must ‘go further’ to remove unacceptable content in wake of TV presenter’s death
No 10 calls on social media firms to act after Caroline Flack death
No 10 has called on social media companies to go further to remove unacceptable content from their platforms in the wake of the death of television presenter Caroline Flack.
Boris Johnson’s deputy official spokesman said Flack’s death was a “tragedy”, adding “our thoughts are with her family and friends at this very difficult time”.
Politicians have condemned press intrusion, calling for more regulation of both traditional and social media after the death of Flack, who is understood to have taken her own life on Saturday at her home in London. She had been charged with assaulting her partner and was due to stand trial in several weeks’ time.
Asked for the prime minister’s view on social media bullying and press intrusion in light of Flack’s death, he said: “The industry must continue their efforts to go further. We expect them to have robust processes in place removing content breaching their acceptable use policies.” His answer appeared to be referring to social media companies rather than the press.
The spokesman declined to comment on ITV’s decision to pull episodes of Love Island and said the decision to charge Flack – even though her partner did not support the prosecution – was a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service.
In the wake of Flack’s death, companion programme Love Island Aftersun – which was due to air on Monday at 10pm on ITV2 – was also cancelled.
The show, broadcast on a Monday night directly after Love Island, is hosted by Laura Whitmore, who spoke of her affection for Flack and called on listeners to “be kind” during her BBC radio 5 Live show on Sunday.
The cancellation of the programme, which is filmed live in front of a studio audience in the UK and features panel discussions and games, follows ITV’s decision to pull Saturday’s omnibus Love Island: Unseen Bits and Sunday’s episode of the main show.
The main show is currently set to go out on Monday night with a tribute to Flack as part of the episode.
Labour leadership contender Keir Starmer criticised mainstream outlets for “amplifying” damaging social media posts about Flack, and signalled he would take action to “diversify” the press if he won the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.
The former director of public prosecutions said the presenter’s death “shocked a lot of people”, adding: “It wasn’t just social media, it was the media amplifying what social media was doing. It was both strands. There is a human impact.
“The press more widely have to take responsibility as well. Not just for the hatred and abuse but for the vilification constantly of Labour MPs and Labour leaders. We have got to do something to diversify our press, to have a better media.”
Fellow leadership contender Lisa Nandy said social media companies could not be left to police themselves, suggesting the current situation was like the “wild west”.
“I worry about the approaches that say we allow the social media companies to regulate themselves,” she said. “In no other area of life would we allow private companies to police themselves. We ought to make sure the state has a system of regulation and support around that.”
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, in a media round on Sunday on behalf of the government, referred to the results of the online harms white paper consultation, which looked at ways of better protecting children and vulnerable people.
Shapps said he did not know the full circumstances of the case but said the Crown Prosecution Service had a duty of care.
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
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