Privacy, misinformation and competition in the social media age – Professor Suzanne Rab, OU Law Associate Lecturer, interviewed by BBC

National pro bono week  2019 provides a great opportunity to celebrate the depth and breadth of the public engagement projects developed by the Open Justice Centre. Applied technology is often at the heart of these projects. Our Digital Justice project is working to harness the potential of smartphone technology for public legal information purposes, our Open Justice Advice Clinic provides access to online legal advice and the law on social media use is often a popular topic in our Street Law programme.

OU Associate Lecturer Professor Suzanne Rab is often asked to comment on legal aspects of technologies such as social media. Suzanne combiners her role as an Associate Lecturer with the OU (on W102 and W330) with working full time as a barrister at Serle Court Chambers in London, being Professor of Commercial Law and Practice Chair at Brunel University and serving as a non-executive Board member of the Legal Aid Agency which dispenses civil and criminal legal aid.   

She was recently asked by the BBC to comment on the issue of whether existing regulation is adequate to make social media companies take more responsibility against a background of  concerns over privacy, misinformation and competition.

She said that,

‘In the wake of Facebook’s latest results announcement, it is clear that negative publicity and regulatory attention has not affected its growth, whether in terms of subscriber numbers, revenues or profits. 

The truth is that even though comparisons have been made with monopolies of the past, the world has not yet seen anything quite like the social media phenomenon where Facebook alone interacts with one in three people across the globe.  This has prompted calls for tougher regulation and even break-up.  However, passing laws to make social media companies police the internet brings with it other concerns.  Let’s not be deluded that any law that orders a company to remove unacceptable content will face objections from proponents of free speech. Where the court making the judgment is from a country where the rule of law is cherished, we might not object.   But that cannot be said of all regimes globally who want to take proactive steps to counter what they perceive is objectionable content.’

Please click here for a link to the full interview broadcast on BBC Business News on 31 October 2019.