BRITAIN: Parliament Issues Scathing Report Calling For Stiffer Regulation Of “Digital Gangsters” At Facebook

CBS News reports:

Senior managers at Facebook knew about a data breach associated with campaign consulting firm Cambridge Analytica before it was first reported in the media in 2015, according to a U.K. Parliament report that concludes the company “deliberately misled” a wide-ranging investigation into disinformation, “fake news” and election interference.

“Some malicious forces use Facebook to threaten and harass others, to publish revenge porn, to disseminate hate speech and propaganda of all kinds, and to influence elections and democratic processes — much of which Facebook, and other social media companies, are either unable or unwilling to prevent,” says the report.

“Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law,” the report says, urging British authorities to determine whether the social media giant has “unfairly” made it harder for other developers to operate.

Engadget reports:

The damning report also reprimands Mark Zuckerberg for twice refusing to testify before the committee. “By choosing not to appear and by choosing not to respond personally to any of our invitations, Mark Zuckerberg has shown contempt towards the UK Parliament,” the report states.

The committee also released internal Facebook documents that originate from a US lawsuit filed by app-maker Six4Three in 2015. “They highlight the link between friends’ data and the financial value of the developers’ relationship with Facebook,” the report states.

“The main issues concern: ‘white lists’; the value of friends’ data; reciprocity; the sharing of data of users owning Android phones; and Facebook’s targeting of competition.” Facebook said in December that the documents were “cherrypicked” to tell “only one side of the story.”

The New York Times reports:

The parliamentary report recommends the creation of a British watchdog to oversee the technology industry, similar to the country’s approach to regulating media companies. It also suggested legally requiring Facebook and other large internet platforms to remove what the government determines to be harmful content, or risk fines or other punishments.

Silicon Valley has long opposed making tech companies responsible for content on their sites. The industry argues that websites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are simply unbiased platforms for others to share material, and that new restrictions could impede free speech.

“Social media companies cannot hide behind the claim of being merely a ‘platform’ and maintain that they have no responsibility themselves in regulating the content of their sites,” the parliamentary report said.