It seems that the bad days for Facebook are never ending. Today, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee published its final report on Disinformation and ‘fake news. They have touted Facebook’s handling of personal data, and its use for political campaigns, as prime areas for inspection by regulators. This report has been published after UK Parliament committee spent more than 18 months of investigation into Facebook and its privacy practices.
The interim report was published in July 2018 which offered the UK government a number of recommendations. The final report offers more recommendations as well as repeats recommendations. The interim report developed a code of ethics, which all tech companies should agree to uphold. For the final report, the members of MP have recommended that platforms should be subject to a Compulsory Code of Ethics that would be overseen by an independent regulator. The companies which fail to meet rules on harmful or illegal content would face hefty fines.
The committee was severely critical of Facebook, condemning Mark Zuckerberg for failing to answer the members’ questions, “By choosing not to appear before the Committee and by choosing not to respond personally to any of our invitations, Mark Zuckerberg has shown contempt towards both the UK Parliament and the‘International Grand Committee’, involving members from nine legislatures from around the world.”, writes the report.
Damian Collins MP, Chair of the DCMS Committee said, “Even if Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t believe he is accountable to the UK Parliament, he is to the billions of Facebook users across the world. Evidence uncovered by my Committee shows he still has questions to answer yet he’s continued to duck them, refusing to respond to our invitations directly or sending representatives who don’t have the right information.”
In December 2018, the committee published a report of Facebook internal documents, including e-mails sent between CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other senior executives regarding a company called six4three. The documents revealed that Facebook monetized their valuable user data, allowing apps to use Facebook to grow their network, as long as it increased usage of Facebook, strict limits on possible competitor access and much more. For the final report, the committee has published more evidence from the Six4Three documents. Per the report, this demonstrates “Facebook’s aggressive action against certain apps and highlights the link between Friends’ data and the financial value of the developers’ relationship with Facebook.”
Facebook was also condemned for its Russian meddling in elections. The committee has urged the Government to make a statement about the number of investigations being carried out into Russian interference in UK politics. Facebook and other social media platforms should be clear that they have a responsibility to comply with the law and not facilitate illegal activity such as foreign influence, disinformation, funding, voter manipulation and the sharing of data.
To summarize, the DCMS committee calls for:
- Compulsory Code of Ethics for tech companies overseen by independent regulator
- Regulator given powers to launch legal action against companies breaching code
- Government to reform current electoral communications laws and rules on overseas involvement in UK elections
- Social media companies obliged to take down known sources of harmful content, including proven sources of disinformation
“We consider that data transfer for value is Facebook’s business model and that Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that ‘we’ve never sold anyone’s data” is simply untrue’,” the committee concludes.
You can go through the full report here.