Sir Nick Clegg summoned in front of MPs over social media abuse

James Warrington
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Sir Nick Clegg is head of global affairs and communications at Facebook (Source: Getty)

Sir Nick Clegg has been asked to appear in front of a parliamentary committee to answer questions about the harassment of MPs on social media.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has written to Clegg, who is head of global affairs and communications at Facebook, asking him to give evidence as part of its inquiry into free speech and the online harassment of MPs.

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“As someone who has yourself been an MP, and is now head of global affairs at Facebook, you are uniquely well placed to give evidence on this. I am sure you will want to help,” wrote MP Harriet Harman, chair of the JCHR.

The JCHR is currently carrying out an investigation into “the balance between the right to protest and the right of MPs to be able to go about their work safely and free from threat and harassment”.

It has already heard evidence from MPs about the high levels of harassment they have received and is probing the role of social media in hosting abusive material.

Harman said the committee intends to hear evidence from Clegg in early March, though is not yet clear whether the former deputy prime minister has agreed to appear. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has previously refused to answer questions from MPs.

Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram are coming under increasing pressure to police material posted on their platforms.

Digital minister Margot James today said the government’s upcoming white paper on online harm will set out new laws to ensure social media sites remove illegal content and prioritise the protection of their users.

“For too long the response from many of the large platforms has fallen short,” James said in a speech to mark Safer Internet Day.

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“There have been no fewer than fifteen voluntary codes of conduct agreed with platforms since 2008. Where we are now is an absolute indictment of a system that has relied far too little on the rule of law.”

James said the white paper, which is due out in the coming months, will be followed by a consultation period over the summer.