Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

May Tells Facebook to Offer Kids the Right to Delete Information

  • Conservative manifesto promises harsher laws for Internet age
  • Internet firms face fines for ignoring illegal content

Social media platforms including Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. could be forced to offer British young people the right to delete information about them if Theresa May is re-elected prime minister on June 8.

Users under the age of 18 will be able to request the removal of all records relating to them. The measure is one of a series that May’s Conservative Party will promise in its election manifesto, due to be published some time next week. It aims to both protect children online and make it easier for businesses to set up and operate on the web.

Theresa May

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

May proposes tighter rules for how the companies deal with hate speech, pornography and illegal content and she wants to empower regulators to fine firms. There will be restrictions on how companies store data and users will be able to access information about them.

The move from the U.K. government to require social networks to delete personal data goes far beyond existing requirements. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are a trove of information, with platforms storing years of personal details, from posts to photos. Google has been pushing back against European rulings around the right to be forgotten.

“The Internet has brought a wealth of opportunity but also significant new risks which have evolved faster than society’s response to them,” May said in an emailed statement. “We want social media companies to do more to help redress the balance and will take action to make sure they do.”

Spokespeople from Twitter, Google Inc., or Snapchat Inc. did not respond to request for comment. Facebook declined to comment.

Content Warning

This month, Home Secretary Amber Rudd warned Facebook, Alphabet Inc.’s Google, and Twitter to improve monitoring of extremist and hate content. She was responding to Parliament’s cross-party Home Affairs Committee, which said the companies are “shamefully” far from having done enough to deal with illegal and dangerous content.

Within the EU, attempts by individuals to ask search engines to stop linking to unwanted content is currently processed on a case by case basis. If Google refuses, then citizens can appeal. The EU General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force in May next year, will give individuals more control over their personal data.

But as well as urging companies to improve their behavior, the Conservatives are offering to encourage people to do more business online.

Companies will be able to insist on a digital signature, with the government supporting the development of digital forms of identification. Customers will get the right to cancel contracts online and to clear, simple terms and conditions for online services.

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