Facebook and other large tech firms should be subject to a compulsory code of ethics to tackle the spread of false news, the misuse of users’ data, and the bullying of smaller companies, British legislators said on Monday.
In a damning report that pulled out Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for what it said was a failure of leadership and personal responsibility, the UK legislature’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said the firm had proved ineffective in stopping damaging content and misinformation on their platforms.
“The guiding principle of the ‘move fast and break things’ culture often seems to be that it is better to apologize than ask permission,” committee chairman Damian Collins said.
“We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people.”
Collins said the age of insufficient self-regulation must come to an end.
“The rights of the citizen need to be established in statute, by requiring the tech companies to adhere to a code of conduct written into law by Parliament, and overseen by an independent regulator,” he said.
Facebook became the focus of the committee’s 18-month inquiry after whistleblower Christopher Wylie alleged that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica had obtained the data of millions of users of the social network.
Zuckerberg made an apology a year ago for a “breach of trust” over the issue.
However, he declined to appear three times before British legislators, a stance that showed “contempt” toward legislature and the members of nine parliaments from around the world, the committee said.
“We believe that in its evidence to the committee Facebook has often deliberately sought to frustrate our work, by giving incomplete, disingenuous and at times misleading answers to our questions,” Collins said.
“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.”
The legislator identified major threats to society from the dominance of tech firms such as Facebook – which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram – Google and Twitter.
Democracy was at risk from the malevolent and relentless targeting of citizens with misinformation and personalized adverts from unknown sources, they said, and social media platforms were failing to act against damaging content and respect the privacy of users.
Firms like Facebook were also using their size to bully smaller companies that depend on social media platforms to reach customers, it added.
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