U.K. parliamentarians call Facebook ‘digital gangsters,’ release report on Fake News

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Facebook should be subjected to statutory regulation after breaking multiple privacy and competition laws, according to a U.K. parliamentary report.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee released its final report after studying Facebook, disinformation and fake news on February 18th, which denounced the social media giant and its executives as “digital gangsters.”

“Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalized ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use every day,” the report said.

“The big tech companies are failing in the duty of care they owe to their users to act against harmful content, and to respect their data privacy rights,” it added. “Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law.”

Among the various recommendations, the report calls for a code of ethics for tech companies that would be overseen by an independent regulator, the regulator would be given powers to launch legal action, that the government look to reform current electoral laws, that social media companies are forced to take down harmful content, and that tech companies are taxed.

Facebook did respond to the report and said that it is “open to meaningful regulation” and intends to support the committee’s recommendations for electoral law reform.

“But we’re not waiting. We have already made substantial changes so that every political ad on Facebook has to be authorized, state who is paying for it and then is stored in a searchable archive for seven years. No other channel for political advertising is as transparent and offers the tools that we do,” Facebook said.

The committee’s chair, Damian Collins, stated his frustration with working with the social media giant and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

“We believe that in its evidence to the committee, Facebook has often deliberately sought to frustrate our work, by giving incomplete, disingenuous and at the time misleading answers to our questions,” he said.

Twenty-four politicians representing nine countries, including Canada, were incredibly unimpressed with Zuckerberg’s vacant seat at the hearing on fake news and disinformation in the U.K. back in November 2018.

NDP Member of Parliament Charlie Angus confirmed to MobileSyrup that the International Grand Committee on Disinformation and ‘Fake News’ is coming to Canada on May 28th.

The committee was established after countries around the world felt it was important to have a hearing with Zuckerberg present to discuss issues around elections meddling, an issue that has affected all countries involved.

The U.K. report in particular singled out the efforts and work Canadian lawmakers made by the House of Commons Standing on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI).

ETHI released its report in December and had similar recommendations.

Source: BBC