Instagram TV's 'very disturbing' videos show social media needs regulation, according to a prominent British politician

Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Foundation For Sports IntegrityDamian Collins MP.
  • Conservative politician Damian Collins called for new rules to create a “commercial incentive” for social media companies to effectively moderate their content, after being shown evidence from a Business Insider investigation into Instagram’s new service IGTV.
  • Business Insider discovered during a three-week investigation that IGTV’s algorithm recommended disturbing and potentially illegal videos, with some of the material being referred to the police.
  • Collins has called for tighter regulation of tech companies before, and is leading a parliamentary probe into fake news.

Damian Collins, the British Conservative MP leading a parliamentary inquiry into fake news, called for tighter regulation of social media companies after being presented with a Business Insider investigation into Instagram’s new service IGTV.

Business Insider’s investigation revealed that IGTV’s algorithm recommended disturbing and potentially illegal videos, including suggestive footage of young girls and apparent penis mutilation. The videos were reported to the police after being flagged by Business Insider.

When Business Insider presented its findings to Collins, he described them as “very disturbing,” and said Instagram needs to do a better job of policing its platform.

“It’s a question of the responsibility of the companies to monitor the content that’s on their platforms,” he said. “A lot of the problematic content is already in breach of the community guidelines of these services, but what it shows is that there’s not effective enforcement.”

Collins also pointed out that services like Instagram are monetised, and therefore the point of regulation would be to financially incentivise companies to invest in properly moderating their content.

“These companies are ad services – they make money out of understanding every single thing you could ever want to know about your users so you can target them with advertising,” he said. “That same technology should surely very easily be able to root out harmful content as well.”

“They don’t do it because there’s not been a commercial incentive for them to do it, so they have just not bothered. But what we have to do through regulation is create that incentive, to say, ‘You’ve actually got an obligation to do it and if you don’t do it, then there will be costs for you for not complying, so you need to invest in doing this now.'”

This is not the first time Collins has called for government action to regulate tech companies. In July, the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (of which Collins is chair) published a report which presented unregulated social media as a threat to democracy. “We are facing nothing less than a crisis in our democracy – based on the systematic manipulation of data to support the relentless targeting of citizens, without their consent, by campaigns of disinformation and messages of hate,” Collins said at the time.

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