Facebook needs 'urgent' regulation to prevent the spread of fake news

Keiligh Baker's picture

Facebook and other big tech companies should be subject to a compulsory code of ethics to tackle the spread of fake news, the abuse of users’ data and the bullying of smaller firms, MPs said on Monday.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published its final report on Disinformation and ‘fake news’.

In a report that singled out Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for what it said was a failure of leadership and personal responsibility, MPs said the companies had proved ineffective in stopping harmful content and disinformation on their platforms.

“The guiding principle of the ‘move fast and break things’ culture often seems to be that it is better to apologise than ask permission,” committee chairman Damian Collins said. “We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people.

“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.”

Zuckerberg apologised last year for a “breach of trust” over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

But he refused to appear three times before MPs, a stance that showed “contempt” towards 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,” 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.”

They also identified major threats to society from the dominance of tech companies such as Facebook - which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram - Google and Twitter.