Stephen Fry calls for Facebook to be classified as a publisher

Fry says it needs to take responsibility for "dangerous, defamatory, inflammatory and fake items" posted

Stephen Fry calls for Facebook to be classified as a publisher

Stephen Fry | File photo

Stephen Fry has weighed in on the debate over policing social media. Speaking at a literary festival over the weekend, the actor outlined his "reformation" for online behaviours. 

Fry has called for Facebook and other social media services to be looked upon as publishers rather than platforms. Fry made the comments after accusing the various companies, including Facebook, of refusing to "take responsibility for those dangerous, defamatory, inflammatory and fake items whose effects will have legal consequences for traditional printed or broadcast media, but which they can escape”. 

This comes just days after the Irish Press Ombudsman called for "the Facebooks of this world" to face similar regulation as traditional media. This sentiment was echoed by Fry, speaking at the Hay Literary Festival. 

“One thesis I could immediately nail up to the tent flag is to call for aggregating news agencies like Facebook to be immediately classified as publishers. At the moment, they are evading responsibility for their content as they can claim to be platforms, rather than publishers. Given that they are now a major source of news for 80% of the population, that is clearly an absurd anomaly,” he said.

“If they, and Twitter and like platforms recognised their responsibilities as publishers, it would certainly help them better police their content for unacceptable libels, defamations, threats and other horrors, that a free belief in the value of the press would, as a matter of course, be expected to control.”

Technophobes

Fry also issued a warning about the future of the internet. Fry criticised "technophobes", including politicians, who he said have been too slow to react to new developments such as AI. 

"Whether it is winter that is coming or a new spring, it is entirely in our hands so long as we prepare. While it's hard to calculate the cascade upon cascade of new developments and their positive effects, we already know the dire consequences and frightening scenarios that threaten to engulf us," he said.

Fry described the technological era as a "great transformation in human society".

"Whether it will alter the behaviour, cognition and identity of the individual in the same way that it is certain to alter the behaviour, cognition and identity of the group, is a hard question to answer.

"But believe me when I say that it is happening. To be frank, it has happened."