Why has it taken us so long to address the issue of harmful content on the Internet?

It’s good to hear that the news that Instagram is now going to remove self-harm images and encouragement to suicide from its service. But why has it taken so long and why is the industry not adopting a more comprehensive approach to harmful content of different kinds?

Almost two decades ago, I became the first independent Chair of the Internet Watch Foundation. This did – and still does – a great job in tackling illegal content on the Net. But I could never persuade the industry to address the issue of harmful content which has since – predictably – become such a huge issue.

Once I ceased to be IWF Chair 13 years ago, I made a series of speeches and a submission to government calling for action on harmful content. Since then, the Net has become a different creature with the advent of social media, so my practical suggestions would not cut it now, but the principles I advocated are as relevant as ever and the need for action is more urgent than ever.


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