United Kingdom lawmakers recommend tougher rules on Facebook

United Kingdom lawmakers recommend tougher rules on Facebook

Britain is facing a crisis in democracy caused by the systematic manipulation of data to target citizens with fake news, MPs have said.

The UK's political system can not cope with the threats from fake news, according to a panel of British lawmakers investigating the impact of social media on recent elections.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee has been investigating the phenomenon of fake news spread through social media following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the private company harvested data from millions of Facebook users in an attempt to sway the USA election in favour of Donald Trump. They have argued that they are not responsible for the content people post on their services.

The report is the latest indication that policymakers in Europe and North America are turning sharply more sceptical about the social media giants, once hailed as leaders of a revolution in free speech and human interaction.

But a copy was published on Friday by Dominic Cummings, the director of the official Brexit campaign group Vote Leave, on his own blog.

Facebook's problems began to increase when U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russians had used fake identities to spread propaganda over Facebook and other social media sites to try to influence the 2016 USA presidential election.

And the parliamentary panel which is mad today is responding to allegations of Russian infiltration by recommending stringent regulations for social media sites, the harshest of which would change laws shielding operators from liability for user-submitted content. "The ever-increasing sophistication of these campaigns, which will soon be helped by developments in augmented reality technology, make this an urgent necessity". USA campaigners have accused Moscow of spreading disinformation on social media in a bid to boost Donald Trump's election campaign, while the United Nations has accused Facebook of being responsible for inciting hatred against the Rohingya minority in Burma.

The committee began its work in January 2017, interviewing 61 witnesses during 20 hearings that took on an investigatory tone not normally found in such forums in the House of Commons.

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The report criticized Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg for failing to appear before the panel and said his stand-ins were "unwilling or unable to give full answers to the committee's questions".

The committee proposed that a "new category of tech company" be created, which was "not necessarily a platform or a publisher" but something in between.

But the report is set to spark a major row with Brexit campaigners, whose activities on social media are likely to come under scrutiny. "We anticipate that the government will put forward these proposals in its White Paper later this year".

The committee also said that the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) needs more money so it can hire technical experts to be the "sheriff in the Wild West of the internet".

The committee suggested a levy on tech companies should fund the expanded responsibilities of the regulators.

"Our democracy is at risk, and now is the time to act, to protect our shared values and the integrity of our democratic institutions", the committee said.

In March, a whistleblower revealed that Facebook had allowed the private information of millions of users to be collected without their knowledge and then given to a company called Cambridge Analytica.

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