UK lawmakers recommend tougher rules on Facebook


Associated Press

LONDON

The U.K. government should increase oversight of social media such as Facebook and election campaigns to protect democracy in the digital age, a parliamentary committee has recommended in a scathing report on fake news, data misuse and interference by Russia.

The interim report by the House of Commons’ media committee to be released today said democracy is facing a crisis because the combination of data analysis and social media allows campaigns to target voters with messages of hate without their consent.

Tech giants such as Facebook, which operate in a largely unregulated environment, are complicit because they haven’t done enough to protect personal information and remove harmful content, the committee said.

“The light of transparency must be allowed to shine on their operations, and they must be made responsible, and liable, for the way in which harmful and misleading content is shared on their sites,” committee Chairman Damian Collins said in a statement.

The study was due to be published today, but a copy was leaked Friday by Dominic Cummings, the director of the official campaign group backing Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Social media companies are under scrutiny worldwide following allegations that political consultant Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to profile voters and help U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign. The committee is also investigating the impact of fake news distributed via social media sites.

Collins ripped Facebook for allowing Russian agencies to use its platform to spread disinformation and influence elections.

“I believe what we have discovered so far is the tip of the iceberg,” he said, adding that more work needs to be done to expose how fake accounts target people during elections.

The committee recommended that the British government increase the power of the Information Commissioner’s Office to regulate social media sites, update electoral laws to reflect modern campaign techniques and increase the transparency of political advertising on social media.

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