Facebook accused of 'intentionally and knowingly' violating UK privacy rules

UK lawmakers believe that Facebook behaves like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world.

Legal and political woes are only mounting higher for Facebook. A 110-page report by British lawmakers has accused the social media giant of violating its data privacy and anti-competition laws. The UK lawmakers believe that Facebook was 'intentionally and knowingly' violating these laws and even went to the extent of calling Facebook's actions as akin to that of a 'digital gangster'.

The report concludes five main suggestions:

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is in contempt of UK parliament in refusing three separate demands for him to present evidence. Instead, in all three instances, he sent junior employees to address these meetings, who were unable to answer the committee’s questions.
  • "We need new independent regulations with tough powers and sanctions regime to curb the worst excesses of surveillance capitalism and the forces trying to use technology to subvert our democracy".
  • Tech companies functioning in the UK should be taxed in order to help fund the work for the Information Commissioner's Office and a new regulator set up to oversee them.
  • UK regulator should have special powers to launch legal action if companies breach any law.
  • UK's existing electoral regulations are "hopelessly out of date for the internet age" and need urgent reform.
Facebook accused of intentionally and knowingly violating UK privacy rules

Facebook's CEO explains why the company wants to merge Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger into one unified platform. Image: Reuters

The British members of Parliament also suggested that the country needs dedicated laws to govern Facebook and other Silicon Valley giants. The UK lawmakers believe that Facebook behaves like a ‘digital gangster’ of the online world, and considers itself above and beyond any law.

The lawmakers have also requested that social media companies remove “harmful” or “illegal” content on their platforms and be held liable for it. It was also agreed upon that self-regulation by social media companies was clearly not working.

According to The Guardian report, the committee’s chairman, Damian Collins says that platforms like Facebook are threatening UK's Democracy via the "malicious and relentless targeting" of the users in the country with disinformation and "personalised dark adverts" from sources that are unidentifiable.

The report also noted that disinformation was not just spread on Facebook but also on platforms such as Twitter.

Facebook has also responded to this report. According to BBC, Facebook says, "We share the Committee's concerns about false news and election integrity and are pleased to have made a significant contribution to their investigation over the past 18 months, answering more than 700 questions and with four of our most senior executives giving evidence."

It added, "We are open to meaningful regulation and support the committee's recommendation for electoral law reform. But we're not waiting. We have already made substantial changes so that every political ad on Facebook has to be authorised, state who is paying for it and then is stored in a searchable archive for seven years. No other channel for political advertising is as transparent and offers the tools that we do."

The research on this report started two years ago in 2017 when concern about Facebook's role in the spread of false information was growing. However, this inquiry was reportedly turbo-charged in March 2018 when the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal was discovered.

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