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Montevideo, June 18th 2019 - 23:01 UTC

 

 

MPs demand tough urgent action against Facebook to combat spread of fake news

Monday, February 18th 2019 - 10:01 UTC
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A House of Commons committee has concluded that the firm's founder Mark Zuckerberg failed to show “leadership or personal responsibility” over fake news. A House of Commons committee has concluded that the firm's founder Mark Zuckerberg failed to show “leadership or personal responsibility” over fake news.

Facebook needs for stricter regulation, with tough and urgent action necessary to end the spread of disinformation on its platform, MPs have said. A House of Commons committee has concluded that the firm's founder Mark Zuckerberg failed to show “leadership or personal responsibility” over fake news.

Untrue stories from foreign powers were risking the UK's democracy, they said. Facebook welcomed the digital select committee's report and said it would be open to “meaningful regulation”.

MPs said that what was needed to deal with the proliferation of disinformation online and the misuse of personal data was a “radical shift in the balance of power between social media platforms and the people”.

The inquiry into fake news, which lasted more than a year, was conducted by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, with much of the evidence focusing on the business practices of Facebook before and after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Cambridge Analytica was a political advertising firm that had access to the data of millions of users, some of which was alleged used to psychologically profile US voters. The data was acquired via a personality quiz.

How such data, particularly in terms of political campaigning, was shared by Facebook was at the heart of the inquiry, alongside the effects of fake news.

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

“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.”
The report called for:

 

  • a compulsory code of ethics for tech companies, overseen by an independent regulator
  • the regulator to be given powers to launch legal action if companies breach the code
  • the government to reform current electoral laws and rules on overseas involvement in UK elections
  • social media companies to be forced to take down known sources of harmful content, including proven sources of disinformation
  • tech companies operating in the UK to be taxed to help fund the work for the Information Commissioner's Office and any new regulator set up to oversee them

MPs made no secret of the fact that they found it difficult dealing with Facebook during the inquiry and chair Damian Collins had strong words for the firm and its leader, Mr 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 time misleading answers to our questions,” he said.

“These are issues that the major tech companies are well aware of, yet continually fail to address. The guiding principle of the 'move fast and break things' culture seems to be that it is better to apologise than ask permission.”

MPs were particularly angry that Mr Zuckerberg did not come to the UK to answer questions in person.

 

Categories: Politics, International.

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