Social media has a ‘dangerous dark side’ and needs more rules, warns Sky boss

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The boss of broadcasting giant Sky has backed plans for a new crackdown on technology giants as he warned over the “dangerous dark side” of social media.

In a speech at a media and telecoms conference in London, group chief executive Jeremy Darroch said videos streamed by the likes of YouTube and Facebook should not be given a “free-pass” and must have the same strict rules as traditional broadcasters.

He welcomed Government action to crack down on internet firms as he said self-regulation was not working for an industry that is now “shaping how elections are fought and impacting the mental health of our children”.

He told the audience at the Deloitte Enders Media and Telecoms event: “It is illogical that if you watch something on your TV it is highly regulated, but if that video comes through YouTube or Facebook, our policy framework gives it a free pass.

“Social media and digital technology can deliver so much good, but we all now accept it has a dangerous dark side.

“It needs rules just as much as TV does or financial services or any other powerful part of our society.”

It follows Mr Darroch’s calls last summer for ministers to create a regulator “with sharp teeth” to rein in the internet giants.

And it comes after the latest raft of controversy surrounding social media firms, following the tragic death of British teenager Molly Russell, which was linked to self-harm images on photo-sharing site Instagram.

The Government is now planning to impose a mandatory code of conduct on tech companies, which could see them face fines for non-compliance.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said at the end of last month the era of self-regulation for social media firms is “coming to an end” ahead of White Paper proposals due to be revealed soon.

Mr Darroch said he was “pleased that the Government, and indeed politicians of all persuasion, have come together” to recognise that self-regulation of the tech industry is no longer enough.

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Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch warned over the ‘dangerous dark side’ of social media (Andrea Southam/Sky/PA)

He said: “The business models of the technology companies seem to allow them to trade without having the same kinds of obligations as most other companies – like paying tax that society expects and needs.

“When paying your taxes, employing people and complying with the law are competitive disadvantages, you know something has got to change.”

Mr Darroch also took the opportunity to update on progress since Sky’s £30 billion takeover by US cable giant Comcast after a long and tortuous bidding battle.

He said Sky employees were “pleased to have the sale behind us”, but added the firms are “already seeing clear benefits flowing in both directions”.

He said the two firms are sharing technology expertise, with Sky bringing Comcast’s voice interface to Sky Q later this year, and its new owner using Sky’s technology to power its new streaming service in the US next year.

He also said they have started transferring some Sky staff to the US and Comcast employees to Europe following the deal.

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