Facebook to clearly label political advertising in Britain, CTO says

Protesters demonstrate against Facebook outside Portcullis House in Westminster, London on April 26. British lawmakers have raised concern over the use of social media in Britain’s referendum decision to leave the European Union in 2016. (Reuters)
Updated 26 April 2018
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Facebook to clearly label political advertising in Britain, CTO says

LONDON: Facebook will introduce new measures to boost transparency around adverts in Britain by June this year and require political ads to be clearly labelled, the firm’s Chief Technology Officer told a British parliamentary committee.
In a written submission to the UK parliament’s media committee, Mike Schroepfer said those wanting to run political adverts would have to complete an authorization process and the messages would also have to display who paid for them.
Facebook has said that the personal information of about 87 million users might have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign.
Lawmakers have also raised concern over the use of social media in Britain’s referendum decision to leave the European Union in 2016.
“I want to start by echoing our CEO, Mark Zuckerberg: what happened with Cambridge Analytica represents a breach of trust, and we are deeply sorry. We made mistakes and we are taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Schroepfer wrote.
Earlier this month, Zuckerberg apologized to US senators for issues that have beset Facebook, including shortcomings over data protection.
But the 33-year-old Internet mogul managed to deflect any specific promises to support any congressional regulation of the world’s largest social media network and other US Internet companies.
Schroepfer, who was appearing before the British media committee on Thursday, said it was clear Facebook had not done enough to ensure its tools from “potentially being used for harm” or take a broad enough view of its responsibility.
“That was a mistake,” he wrote.


Facebook ‘digital gangsters’ who spread fake news: British MPs

Updated 24 min 30 sec ago
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Facebook ‘digital gangsters’ who spread fake news: British MPs

  • Facebook is coming under attack over its response to Russia’s suspected use of misleading stories and targeted ads to sway the 2016 US presidential election

LONDON: A scathing British parliamentary report on Monday branded Facebook “digital gangsters” who failed to fight the spread of fake news and violated data privacy.
Lawmakers’ 18-month investigation into technology companies and disinformation also accused the world’s largest social media platform of trying to hide the extent of Russian interference in foreign elections.
Facebook is coming under attack over its response to Russia’s suspected use of misleading stories and targeted ads to sway the 2016 US presidential election and a series of European votes.
Its executives have further been accused of trying to either hide or suppress emerging evidence of foreign meddling flagged by its engineers.
Parliamentary committee chair Damian Collins said Facebook “deliberately sought to frustrate our work by giving incomplete, disingenuous and at times misleading answers to our questions.”
Facebook co-founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg turned down three requests to appear before the committee.
“Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law,” the 108-page report said.
The committee urged a compulsory code of ethics for all tech companies that would be overseen by an independent UK regulator.
Collins told AFP he hoped “that before the end of the year, there could be a firm proposal for legislation” establishing how such an oversight body would work.
“This ends the idea that tech companies are just platforms, that they are independent and that the responsibility for the content lies solely on the person who posted it,” Collins said in a phone interview.
“They have limited liability for the content that has been posted there. They are not neutral. They curate the space, they promote content toward users.”
Facebook spokesman Karim Palant said executives at the California-based company “share the committee’s concerns about false news and election integrity.”
“We are open to meaningful regulation and support the committee’s recommendation for electoral law reform,” Palant said in a statement.
But Collins said Facebook has only adopted incremental policy changes that were mostly aimed at fending off regulation making it liable for the spread of malicious stories.
“They have taken a step, largely I think, to offset legislation,” said Collins.
“It shouldn’t be down to Mark Zuckerberg to determine what the code is for election advertising in the UK through Facebook.”
The committee earlier found that Facebook’s engineers had flagged potentially malicious Russian activity as early as 2014 — long before it became public.
Monday’s report said the two Facebook officials who did testify “deliberately misled the committee or they were deliberately not briefed by senior executives at Facebook about the extent of Russian interference in foreign elections.”
UK officials have been probing the role Russian misinformation campaigns may have played in swaying Britons toward voting in favor of leaving the European Union in 2016.
Russia has denied either backing Britain’s decision or covertly backing pro-Brexit leaders during the divisive campaign.
The committee further accused Facebook of offering Netflix and other popular apps preferential access to people’s data even after it had tightened its privacy rules.
“They are acting in an aggressive way against other companies that could be considered a commercial threat to Facebook,” Collins told AFP.
The British government has eight weeks to respond to the parliamentary report.
Britain is coming under pressure to follow the example set by Germany and France of introducing rules governing how Facebook collects user data and fights fake news.
Germany’s competition authority said this month it will impose limits to how Facebook hoovers up data from its WhatsApp and Instagram subsidiaries.
And France has introduced laws requiring social media giants to take down malicious stories during election campaigns.
Collins said it would be up to parliament to determine what rules and punishments to impose.
“We feel that it’s no longer good enough just to ask the tech companies to get better,” he said.