After almost two weeks of interning at the Board of Deputies, I was looking forward to a fieldtrip to Westminster after being invited to accompany a Board member to an event at Parliament.
Although I had visited the House of Commons once before on a school trip, seeing the building on a working day was completely different to walking through the empty corridors during the summer recess, and it was exhilarating to see all the ministers in action, rushing around, and muttering about the future of Scotland to each other.
We had been invited to the Society of Editors launch of a new Online Moderation Guide. After a year of research, and funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government, the report complied of a series of recommendations to newspapers on how to oversee comments they receive on their online articles in order to avoid aggressive or offensive hate speech online. The link to this guide is below.
The Board had a particular interest in this topic as it included the moderation of comments that were offensive on the basis of ethnicity or religion, linking to antisemitism online, a problem that has become even greater with the rise of social media, the accessibility of the internet as a forum for opinions, and the recent developments in Israel and Gaza.
It was interesting to hear from speaker John Mann MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism, who spoke about the balance between freedom of speech and hate speech. He was followed by speaker Steven Williams MP, Minister of State for Communities, who made many thought-provoking comments. He spoke on the issue of the internet, and why individuals feel more empowered online, by using pseudonyms and anonymous accounts that allow them to type comments they would never dare put in writing or say to someone’s face.
It was an eye-opening day into the difficulties of controlling the spiralling phenomenon that is social media, with newspapers such as the Mail Online receiving over 350,000 comments a week. It was also interesting see the many events that the Board take part in behind the scenes, that are important in building vital relationships with Parliamentarians, as they sent representatives to two other meetings at the House of Commons that same day, including the ZF Lobby.
All in all, It was thoroughly enjoyable to catch a glimpse into the inside workings of Westminster, and it was with a certain degree of smugness that I happily strode past the many tourists taking pictures outside on my way out.
The link to the guide is here: https://www.societyofeditors.co.uk/page-view.php?pagename=online-moderation-report
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