The report calls for a compulsory code of ethics for tech companies overseen by independent regulator; regulators given powers to launch legal action against companies breaching code; government to reform current electoral communications laws and rules on overseas involvement in UK elections; and, social media companies obliged to take down known sources of harmful content, including proven sources of disinformation
The report also found that Facebook intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws. Damian Collins MP, chair of the DCMS Committee said, ‘the big tech companies are failing in the duty of care they owe to their users to act against harmful content, and to respect their data privacy rights.’ Mr Collins explained, ‘our inquiry over the last year has identified three big threats to our society. The challenge for the year ahead is to start to fix them; we cannot delay any longer.’ He added, ‘democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use everyday. Much of this is directed from agencies working in foreign countries, including Russia.’ Mr Collins called for a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people, and an end to ‘the age inadequate self regulation’ The Report urges a review of self-regulation for the strategic communications industry on whether new regulation is necessary to curb bad behaviour in the industry.
Accountable to billions
Referring specifically to Facebook, Mr Collins said, ‘companies like Facebook exercise massive market power which enables them to make money by bullying the smaller technology companies and developers who rely on this platform to reach their customers.’ He explained, ‘these are issues that the major tech companies are well aware of, yet continually fail to address. The guiding principle of the ‘move fast and break things’ culture often seems to be that it is better to apologise than ask permission. Mr Collins explained, ‘much of the evidence we have scrutinised during our inquiry has focused on the business practices of Facebook; before, during and after the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal.’ And he said ‘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.’ Mr Collins concluded, ‘even if Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t believe he is accountable to the UK Parliament, he is to the billions of Facebook users across the world.’