Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on data analytics has backed calls made by prominent footballers such as Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Phil Neville for social media companies to crack down on anonymous trolls, following racist abuse of Paul Pogba online.

Mr Zeichner says “It’s great that footballers are using their platforms to advocate more responsible online behaviour, but it’s unacceptable that online abuse so often goes uncriticised. Social media companies have a responsibility to keep people safe online, and anonymous hate being spread by faceless, mystery accounts must not be tolerated. I led a debate on online hate at the beginning of the summer and it’s clear that there’s cross-party support for better regulation. The Government now need to mandate social media companies to do more, and stop allowing cowards to hide behind their screens while spreading abuse.“

In the parliamentary debate in July, Daniel Zeichner told MPs that “The Government are currently consulting on their “Online Harms” White Paper, and I look forward to the roundtable hosted by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport this Wednesday, because this is an important issue that cannot be left while the Government prevaricate on our place in Europe. The White Paper confirms “For illegal harms, it is also important to make sure that criminal law applies online in the same way as it applies offline.”

“These are big questions and they raise big challenges about how social media platforms in general should be regulated, about anonymity and about enforcement. The bullies should be unmasked, and the tech platforms should be doing that themselves, not waiting to be forced. Unmasking will also allow more effective enforcement. In my view, the White Paper does not look sufficiently at ways to tackle enforcement. That is a wider issue—it seems to me, from my brief time in Parliament, that it comes up so often. We spend hours legislating and considering policy but then do not provide the resources or systems for implementation and enforcement, so too often, laws are observed by the law-abiding but are largely ignored by those who are not—a pointless and frustrating situation.“

Manchester United player Harry Maguire called for a crackdown on online accounts completely, advocating the need for users to confirm their passport or driving license when signing up for an account.

In response to this, Mr Zeichner says: “I see a lot of merit in Harry’s proposal – it’s not acceptable to say these kinds of things in any sphere of life, and the same rules should apply online. The government must work harder to develop laws fit for the 21st century, so we all feel safe both off and online.“

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