World Media

British MPs term Facebook 'digital gangsters' in scathing report

British MPs term Facebook 'digital gangsters' in scathing report

The report continued that ethics guidelines are needed to set out what is and what is not acceptable on social media, including harmful and illegal content that has been referred to the platforms by users or identified by the companies.

The report says social media sites should not be allow to behave like "digital gangsters", considering themselves beyond the law, the Daily Mail of London reported.

In a report published following an 18-month investigation into accusations that Facebook had been used to spread disinformation with a material effect on various political movements from the U.S. presidential elections to the vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) pulls few punches.

The lawmakers also accused chief executive Mark Zuckerberg of showing "contempt" of the British parliament by choosing not to appear before the committee nor "respond personally to any of our invitations".

It is also expected to release a "white paper" next month that Mr Collins said should form the basis for new legislation governing social media companies' behaviour during election campaigns. The study concludes that companies like Facebook should be held to a "compulsory Code of Ethics, overseen by an independent regulator", and calls for regulations to hold Facebook accountable for misdeeds and privacy breaches.

Facebook said in a statement that the company was "pleased to have made a significant contribution" to the investigation, and added that the firm was "open to meaningful regulation and support the committee's recommendation for electoral law reform". Parliament should investigate whether Facebook is "unfairly using its dominant market position in social media to decide which business should succeed or fail", according to the report.

Democracy was at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalized adverts from unidentifiable sources, they said, and social media platforms were failing to act against harmful content and respect the privacy of users.

"We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people", committee chairman Damian Collins said.

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British lawmakers said they found proof Facebook was willing "override its users' privacy settings in order to transfer data to some app developers".

The report called out Facebook in particular, saying that the site's structure seems to be created to "conceal knowledge of and responsibility for specific decisions".

The British MPs said the scandal showed Facebook needed to be regulated more tightly.

"We further recommend that the Government launches an independent investigation into past elections - including the UK election of 2017, the UK Referendum of 2016, and the Scottish Referendum of 2014 - to explore what actually happened with regard to foreign influence", the report said.

But Mr Collins said Facebook has only adopted incremental policy changes that were mostly aimed at fending off regulation making it liable for the spread of malicious stories. He reiterated his threat to force Zuckerberg to testify before Parliament if he ever travels to Britain, a statement Collins first made after the Facebook executive repeatedly declined to appear at hearings a year ago.

Facebook rejected the suggestion it had breached data protection and competition laws, and said it shared the committee's concerns about false news and election integrity.

Cambridge Analytica was a company which mined data from Facebook users to target political advertising, without those users knowing.

Facebook, however, said it had cooperated with the investigation by answering more than 700 questions and putting forward four senior executives to give evidence.


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