Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, told MPs that Twitter had allowed the publication of baseless accusations that he is a paedophile
Ofcom must be given powers to raid tech giants’ offices and grill their executives to enforce the incoming duty of care, the UK’s data watchdog has told MPs.
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Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner, said the media regulator would need “compulsory” powers to inspect social media giants’ algorithms when the regime came into force, to ensure they were not promoting harmful material.
Her comments came as the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, also told MPs that Twitter had allowed baseless accusations that he is a paedophile on its site, as they were deemed not to breach community rules.
The pair appeared on Thursday before a committee of MPs and peers scrutinising the Government’s plans to impose a statutory duty on tech giants to protect users from harm, a measure The Telegraph has campaigned for since 2018.
Under the proposals, Ofcom will be given powers to demand information from social media firms about how they are policing their sites and levy fines running into the billions if they refuse.
However, Ms Denham said she felt Ofcom needed stronger powers comparable to her Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which can turn up at companies’ office’s for “compulsory audits” and interview senior staff if they are suspected of misusing people’s personal data.
The ICO has used the powers to launch raids on the UK offices of Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
She said: “I think that the information powers that are in the draft Bill for Ofcom are important but I also think they need to be bolstered by audit powers for the regulator to be able to look under the bonnet. I think that is really important.
“I would like to see some stronger powers of compulsory audits”.
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Meanwhile, Mr Wales told MPs that he had had to email Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter, after a user of the site made “horrific” allegations of “paedophilia” against him.
The Wikipedia founder said that Mr Dorsey ensured the slurs were removed after the social media company initially said the comments had not broken any rules.
However, after a second set of baseless allegations were made on the site, Mr Wales said he reported them again and engaged in a debate with Twitter’s moderation staff about why they were not being removed.
He said: “I escalated it again and got into quite a good discussion with people from content moderation and it actually isn’t against their terms of service from what I view as the plain language of it.
“The rationale has to do with the MeToo movement, which has shown people need a voice to make accusations against people in power.
“I said I don’t agree with your decision here but I understand that is a very difficult fine line.”