Online Safety Bill: Tech firms to be accountable for algorithms that push harmful content to young people

Lawmakers referred to Andrew Tate in a House of Lords debate

Social media companies will be forced to change their algorithms – which have been heavily criticised for pushing harmful content to youngsters.

Amendments will be made to the Online Safety Bill, the landmark legislation aimed at rewriting the rules of the internet.

Lawmakers referred to Andrew Tate in a parliamentary debate on changes to the bill which is in the latter stages of its journey to becoming law.

The controversial influencer has been charged in Romania with rape, human trafficking and forming an organised crime group to sexually exploit women. He denies the accusations.

Last August, an Observer investigation revealed how TikTok has been promoting misogynistic content to young people despite claiming to ban it. The newspaper claimed that clips of Tate, who has been widely condemned for normalising extreme and outdated views about women, are among those pushed by the algorithm to users via the curated For You homepage.

The bill was initially intended to only regulate content but after a vote this will now be changed. The government disagreed with the amendments – arguing that the change would set back other child protection measures in the bill – but lost by a majority of 72.

“Amending the Online Safety Bill in this way will only weaken and ultimately delay protections for children in the long run, and it is disappointing that the House of Lords has voted to do so,” the government said.

Crossbench peer Baroness Kidron, who called for the changes, said it was wrong that algorithmic recommendations “deliberately push 13-year-old boys towards Andrew Tate – not for any content reason, but simply on the basis that 13-year-old boys are like each other and one of them has already been on that site”.

Earlier this month, TikTok came under fire for allowing misogynistic videos of Tate to circulate on its platform despite him being banned. The Independent found his clips being shared both under the “Tate” hashtag and elsewhere – and experts say they are being viewed by children as young as 13.

Baroness Kidron said in the debate that the impact of algorithms had “rocked our schools as female teachers and girls struggle with the

attitudes and actions of young boys, and has torn through families, who no longer recognise their sons and brothers.”

She added: “To push hundreds of thousands of children towards Andrew Tate for no reason other than to benefit commercially from the network effect is a travesty for children and it undermines parents.”

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