The report by the U.K. Digital, Culture, Media and Sports committee was published on Monday. It comes after an 18-month-old investigation into allegations of disinformation and fake news spread over the networking site.
The report proposed setting up of an independent body for regulating the conduct of social media sites with the power to impose massive fines upon them in case of non-compliance.
DCMS report also came down heavily upon Mark Zuckerberg, CEO – Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), for showing contempt towards the British Parliament by refusing to testify before it and for failing to thwart Russian attempts at influencing elections.
The Most Unsparing Assault Against Facebook Ever
Facebook has been courting one controversy after another for quite some time now, after first coming under the scanner for its role in sharing its users’ personal data with the now defunct British consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
Lately, the social media giant was accused of paying $20 per month to users as young as 13 for unlimited access to their phones.
Be it self-inflicted damage by way of bugs or other debacles in form of data mining by keeping tabs on users’ browsing habits, Facebook continued to make it to the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
In what has to be the most scathing criticism ever, the British lawmakers’ committee asserted that companies like Facebook could not be allowed to behave like digital gangsters.
“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,” reads the report.
The committee went on to claim that it had enough evidence pointing towards Facebook’s tacit involvement in tweaking users’ privacy settings to facilitate the transfer of data to third parties and app developers to suit its nefarious ends.
Additionally, the networking platform also managed to deprive other companies like software firm Six4Three of that data to destroy their business model. The report warns Facebook of using its dominant market position in trying to snub out rivals so that they could no longer compete with Facebook and its family of apps.
“It is evident that intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws,” read the report.
The final report submitted by the committee, in a strongly worded statement, denounced the company’s owners for behaving responsibly, as expected from someone of his stature.
Zuckerberg had declined from testifying in front of British lawmakers, though he had appeared earlier in front of American and EU lawmakers to elaborate on his company’s data collection and distribution practices. In the U.K. however, he sent his company’s representatives to testify.
“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,” pointed out Damian Collins, chairperson of the committee.
Collins went on to emphasize that all British lawmakers are now determined to bring Zuckerberg and his company into line for the indifference shown by him in failing to heed to the committee’s notices to testify.
“Few individuals have shown contempt for our parliamentary democracy in the way Mark Zuckerberg has,” Collins pointed out.
Reasoning that social sites cannot get away beyond the purview of regulatory bodies by claiming to be mere platforms, the DCMS report proposes new laws whereby they would have to regulate the content being published thereupon.
These new regulations include a mandatory code of ethics which all networking sites would have to comply with, and an imposition of penalty and/ or initiation of legal proceedings in case of failure to do so.
The report cites the German example. A German law passed last year has made it mandatory for all tech companies to remove hate speech within a day, failing which they will be required to pay a €20m (£17.5m) fine.
Archaic laws need to be updated to avoid being taken advantage of by disruptive forces operating under the garb of ‘networking sites.’
“We need reform so that the same principles of transparency of political communications apply online, just as they do in the real world,” Collins said.
All this while, Facebook has steadfastly stuck to its stand, whereby it denies any hand in handing over data to third parties or having violated anti-competition laws.
This hardly sounds convincing enough because only recently, the company went on to block third-party tools collecting political data by inserting special codes.
The social media giant is already negotiating record penalty with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the U.S regulatory body, over alleged privacy breaches.