Facebook broke rules, should be
regulated: UK lawmakers
Send a link to a friend
[February 18, 2019]
By Paul Sandle
LONDON (Reuters) - Facebook intentionally
breached data privacy and competition law and should, along with other
big tech companies, be subject to a new regulator to protect democracy
and citizens' rights, British lawmakers said on Monday.
In a damning report that singled out Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for
what it said was a failure of leadership and personal responsibility,
the British parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
said tech firms had proved ineffective in stopping harmful content on
This included disinformation, attempts by foreign countries to influence
elections, and risks to personal data.
"We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms
and the people," committee chairman Damian Collins said.
Collins said the age of inadequate self-regulation must end, following
an 18-month investigation that concluded Facebook had "intentionally and
knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws."
"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 rejected the suggestion it had breached data protection and
competition laws, and said it shared the committee's concerns about
false news and election integrity.
"We are open to meaningful regulation and support the committee's
recommendation for electoral law reform," Facebook's UK public policy
manager Karim Palant said.
"We also support effective privacy legislation that holds companies to
high standards in their use of data and transparency for users."
Lawmakers in Europe and the United States are scrambling to get to grips
with the risks posed by big tech companies regulating the platforms used
by billions of people.
Germany has been at the forefront of the backlash against Facebook,
fueled by last year's Cambridge Analytica scandal in which tens of
millions of Facebook profiles were harvested without their users'
consent. Earlier this month, it ordered Facebook to curb its data
collection practices in the country.
U.S senator Marco Rubio introduced a bill last month aimed at giving
Americans more control over data collected by online companies like
Facebook and Alphabet's Google.
The British committee does not propose legislation, but does have the
power to summon witnesses for its investigations.
ZUCKERBERG NO SHOW
Facebook became the focus of its inquiry after whistleblower Christopher
Wylie alleged that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica had
obtained the data of millions of users of the social network.
[to top of second column]
Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of
Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018.
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo
Zuckerberg apologized last year for a "breach of trust" over the
But he refused to appear three times before British lawmakers, a
stance that showed "contempt" toward parliament and the members of
nine legislatures 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,"
"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."
Facebook, however, said it had cooperated with the investigation by
answering more than 700 questions and putting forward four senior
executives to give evidence.
It said it had made substantial changes, including the authorization
of every political advert, and it was investing heavily in
identifying abusive content.
"While we still have more to do, we are not the same company we were
a year ago," Palant said.
The committee said it had identified major threats to society from
the dominance of companies such as Facebook - which also owns
WhatsApp and Instagram - Google and Twitter.
Democracy was at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of
citizens with disinformation and personalized adverts from
unidentifiable sources, they said, and social media platforms were
failing to act against harmful content and respect the privacy of
Companies like Facebook were also using their size to bully smaller
firms that relied on social media platforms to reach customers, it
(Editing by Hugh Lawson and Mark Potter)
[© 2019 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2019 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thompson Reuters is solely responsible for this content.