UK Report Calls for More Oversight of Tech Companies Such as Facebook | Tech Social
to be liable for harmful and misleading material on their platforms, warning of a “democratic crisis” being created by the spread of misinformation.
The report is the result of a monthslong inquiry by Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which probed tech companies including Facebook this year on issues of privacy, misinformation and the dominance of platforms over the digital advertising market.
The 89-page report makes a broad swath of recommendations that, if adopted, would allow the U.K. government to exert more control over the tech sector. They include the creation of a new category of tech company that is neither publisher nor platform to “tighten tech companies’ liabilities.”
“Social media companies cannot hide behind the claim of being merely a ‘platform,’ claiming that they are tech companies and have no role themselves in regulating the content of their sites,” the report says. “That is not the case; they continually change what is and is not seen on their sites, based on algorithms and human intervention.”
Facebook’s vice president of policy, said in a statement the committee has “raised some important issues,” adding that the company was “pleased to be able to contribute to their work.”
“We share their goal of ensuring that political advertising is fair and transparent and agree that electoral rule changes are needed,” Mr. Allen wrote. “We have already made all advertising on Facebook more transparent.” Facebook has allowed users to see all ads on a page, including those not targeted at them, and has created an archive of political ads users can search.
The report was scheduled to be officially released Sunday but was made public ahead of its publication date by
a British political operative who championed the Brexit campaign.
The Guardian previously reported on the contents of the report.
The report lands at an inopportune time for Facebook. Earlier this week, the company reported slower-than-expected revenue growth, leading to the biggest-ever one-day loss in market value for a U.S.-listed company. The company has also weathered successive controversies regarding the unauthorized release of its users’ data and the spread of misinformation on its platform.
The U.K. report echoes a growing sentiment among lawmakers in the U.S. that companies like Facebook should face more regulations. Facebook Chief Executive
has testified that he would be open to some sort of regulation that would protect the privacy of users on his platform.
Among other things, the U.K. report recommends that tech companies should have legal responsibility to take action against harmful and illegal content on their platform and proposes imposing a levy on tech companies to fund the government’s Information Commissioners Office. Facebook said Friday it banned controversial radio host
for 30 days for repeatedly posting content that violated the social network’s community guidelines.
The report also calls for establishing a ban on micro-targeted political advertising on Facebook, a system that allows the company to target “look-alike” audiences that have not requested to receive political messaging.