UK democracy ‘facing a crisis’ from US social media giants – Tech| Social

The group set out the following recommendations in its interim report published on Sunday:

• Tech companies should be forced to pay a levy to help fund the UK regulator.

• The government should make sure personal data of UK citizens cannot be processed in the US by media companies.

• The election regulator’s current maximum fine limit of £20,000 ($36,000) should be increased and based on a fixed percentage of revenue.

• Tech companies should be given their own regulations, where they are neither a platform nor a publisher.

• Tech companies should do more to reveal those who abuse people online while hiding behind anonymous accounts.

• UK regulators should be given the power to audit the technology of social media companies.

• The National Crime Agency should investigate Emerdata Ltd, the new company founded by group of former Cambridge Analytica employees.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington in April.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington in April.

Photo: AP

The report is the latest indication that policymakers in Europe and North America are turning sharply more sceptical about the social media giants, once hailed as leaders of a revolution in free speech and human interaction.

Facebook’s problems began to increase when US intelligence agencies concluded that Russians had used fake identities to spread propaganda over Facebook and other social media sites to try to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

That revelation was part of the impetus for the formation of the British parliamentary committee, which sought to determine whether Russia had applied similar efforts to sway the 2016 referendum on Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Moscow has long sought to weaken the European Union, and the committee’s report cited research showing that in the six months before the referendum in June 2016, the Kremlin’s English-language outlets, Sputnik and Russia Today, published 261 articles supporting Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc. Those articles then somehow reached more users on Twitter than the content produced by the two main campaigns for Brexit.

In the six months before the Brexit referendum in June 2016, the Kremlin's English-language outlets, Sputnik and Russia Today, published 261 articles supporting Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

In the six months before the Brexit referendum in June 2016, the Kremlin’s English-language outlets, Sputnik and Russia Today, published 261 articles supporting Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Photo: AP

It is only an interim report, and the panel will publish its full findings in the autumn. While the committee has no legislative power, it has been particularly vocal in its attempts to hold companies to account.

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One particular battle concerned those who refused to turn up. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly spurned requests from an increasingly irate Collins to give evidence, instead sending a string of lieutenants. Once again, the committee called for Zuckerberg to appear in front of the panel.

Although the committee lacks legal power, it has contributed to the many voices calling for social media companies to do more to change their platforms. Recent financial results from companies such as Facebook and Twitter suggest political scrutiny may be beginning to affect the companies’ profits

Twitter said on Friday that monthly users dropped by 1 million in the second quarter, and predicted that number will decline further as the company continues to fight against spam, fake accounts and trolls. Shares in Facebook also plunged following its first major financial stumble in three years, after a quarter in which data-privacy issues came under harsh scrutiny.

Bloomberg, New York Times

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