MPs accuse Facebook of shirking leadership over fake news
Mark Zuckerberg failed to show the “personal responsibility that should be expected from someone who sits at the top of one of the world’s biggest companies,” the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee said
Image credit: PA
A powerful committee of MPs has accused Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg of shirking leadership over fake news and disinformation on the social networking site.
The tech tycoon has failed to show the “personal responsibility that should be expected from someone who sits at the top of one of the world’s biggest companies,” the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee said.
It made the comments as it called for a “radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people” in a hard-hitting new report.
The DCMS committee has spent months looking into targeted advertising on social media, fake news, disinformation and foreign interference in elections.
It has probed the secretive data firms that played a pivotal role in the EU referendum and looked at how their wares have been used to target voters away from the scrutiny of the public eye.
In its conclusions it called for a compulsory code of ethics for tech firms overseen by an independent regulator with the powers to take legal action when rules are breached.
It also said electoral laws were “not fit for purpose” and demanded major reform by Government - including over foreign meddling in elections from states like Russia.
But it trained its most damning fire on Facebook, which it said “intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws” by handing masses of user information over to app developers.
It also said the tech giant had failed to clarify the extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and EU referendum, or how it would prevent such meddling in the future.
Tory chair of the committee Damian Collins 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.
“Mark Zuckerberg continually fails to show the levels of leadership and personal responsibility that should be expected from someone who sits at the top of one of the world’s biggest companies.”
Collins added that democracy was “at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources”.
He said: “We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people.”
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said: “Few individuals have shown contempt for our Parliamentary democracy in the way Mark Zuckerberg has.
"If one thing is uniting politicians of all colours during this difficult time for our country, it is our determination to bring him and his company into line.”
Elsewhere in the report, the committee took aim at controversial Leave.EU founder Arron Banks, who it said had not cleared up concerns about alleged data misuse or the source of some campaign funds.
Responding to the report, a Facebook spokesperson said: "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. But we're not waiting.
"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.
"No other channel for political advertising is as transparent and offers the tools that we do."
The NCSC warned that “it’s important to apply these updates quickly, to make it as hard as possible for attackers to get in”
If MPs are also landlords you could be forgiven for expressing a certain cynicism over the prospect for change
Richard Bacon said a watchdog could help to rein in over-spending on projects like the notorious NHS national IT programme.
Separated from the seats of power by more than just mere geography, what has devolution done for the Highlands to close the gap?
Vodafone explores some of the ways IoT is significantly improving public sector service delivery
With the annual worldwide cost of cybercrime set to double from $3tn in 2015 to $6tn by 2021, BT offers advice on how chief information security officers can better...
Vodafone today announced the commencement of trials of the world’s first air traffic control drone tracking and safety technology.
BT's Amy Lemberger argues that having the right security in place to protect your organisation is no longer just an option. It is a necessity.