NEWS18 February 2019

Zuckerberg failed in leadership and responsibility over fake news says MPs

Data analytics Legal News Privacy Public Sector UK

UK – Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has been condemned for failing to lead over fake news and data privacy in the report from the House of Commons se‍lect committee. 

Mark Zuckerberg_crop

In the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports committee’s final report following its enquiry into fake news and disinformation, it said Facebook needed far greater regulation to stop the spread of disinformation on the social media platform.

The select committee MPs were angry that Zuckerberg refused to attend the committee in person and answer questions.

Its chair, Damian Collins, said: "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. 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."

The committee said that Facebook had intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws as it allowed Cambridge Analytica to use data without users knowledge or consent.

The report found that false stories originating from foreign powers risked the UK’s democracy. It stated that: "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. 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 with powers to take legal action if the code is breached.

It also wants the government to reform electoral laws – which it claimed were "not fit for purpose" – on the involvement of overseas organisations in UK election.

And it called for tech companies to be taxed to help fund the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and any new regulator set up.

The report also said that the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) should carry out a comprehensive audit of the advertising market on social media and investigate whether Facebook has been involved in anti-competitive practices. 

Facebook responded: "We share the committee’s concerns about false news and election integrity and are pleased to have made a significant contribution to their investigation over the past 18 months, answering more than 700 questions and with four of our most senior executives giving evidence.

"We are open to meaningful regulation and support the committee’s recommendation for electoral law reform. We have already made substantial changes so that every political ad on Facebook has to be authorised, state who is paying for it and then is stored in a searchable archive for seven years."

The DCMS committee said that in the month following the publication of its interim report, 63% of the views to the online government response were from foreign internet protocol (IP) addresses, more than half of which were from Russia, highly unusual for a UK-based political inquiry.