Facebook Violated Data Privacy Laws, UK Lawmakers Say in Report


The report said tech giants like Facebook should be legally required to follow a code of ethics and immediately remove harmful online content like disinformation, and that independent regulators should be allowed to monitor and fine those platforms that don't follow the rules.

A cross-party committee looking into the spread of "disinformation and fake news" on omnipresent blue social network Facebook is asking for the site to be regulated, if something like that is indeed even the slightest bit possible.

"This ends the idea that tech companies are just platforms, that they are independent and that the responsibility for the content lies exclusively on the person who posted it", Collins said in a phone interview.

The outcome? According to the report's conclusions, it's time to end the era of self-regulation and voluntary codes of practice for tech companies like Facebook, and to introduce a compulsory code of ethics with an independent regulator to enforce it.

The regulator should have legal powers, such as the ability to fine these companies if they fail to act on harmful or illegal content on their platforms, a responsibility they have long shied away from. The committee members speculated in the report that the Facebook executives who appeared before Parliament may have deliberately not been briefed on certain issues. Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright told Andrew Marr this weekend that he "expects" to meet Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg next week, to talk about regulation of social media companies. Nothing in Facebook's actions supports the statements of Mark Zuckerberg who, we believe, lapsed into "PR crisis mode", when its real business model was exposed. "No other channel for political advertising is as transparent and offers the tools that we do".

Facebook has also been accused of spreading false claims during the 2016 US election and the U.K. "Brexit" referendum on European Union membership.

After investigating the company's practices for a year and a half, the committee also said that Facebook deliberately obstructed the inquiries issued by the committee, and did next to nothing when Russian Federation tried to interfere with other countries' elections.

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The committee also called for the Competitions and Market Authority to investigate social media websites, particularly Facebook.

The report also rounded on Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, who was accused of showing "contempt" towards the committee by choosing not to appear before it a year ago.

Facebook responded to the committee, saying it has made "significant" contributions to the investigation and shared its concerns about fake news and electoral integrity. Karim Palant, Facebook's United Kingdom public policy manager, said in a statement that the company "supports effective privacy legislation" and is also open to "meaningful regulation".

Furthermore, in specific reference to the Cambridge Analytica data breach previous year, which the DCMSC has interrogated closely, it accused Facebook of a "profound failure of governance".

The report further stated that "Facebook continues to choose profit over data security, taking risks in order to prioritize their aim of making money from user data".

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The documents reviewed by the committee also included email correspondence between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with his company's executives.