Following the lecture, Ian Russell, whose 14-year-old daughter Molly took her own life in 2017 after viewing self-harm and suicide material on Instagram, asked Sir Tim if he felt it was as difficult to clean up dangerous content online as tech firms claimed.
Sir Tim described the proliferation of such content as “a really big problem”, but said AI appeared unable to remove it without human help.
Asked if social media giants should hire more people to remove harmful content, he said: “Then you have a human being who is paid probably not very much to sit all of their working life looking at things that are borderline really horrible and ghastly. It is not so much the pay, it is that it is an awful job to do. They end up being changed as it is more than a person can take to be constantly asked to make these decisions and to see this horrible stuff.”
Sir Tim called on governments and tech giants to sign up to a new “contract for the web” and to find ways to combat mass misinformation and data abuses.