UK lawmakers say Facebook needs independent ethical oversight

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote speech at F8, Facebook's developer conference, in San Jose, California in this May 1, 2018, file photo. In his first State of the State address, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state's consumers should get a piece of the billions of dollars that technology companies make off the personal data they collect. California-based Facebook and Google aren't commenting on the idea. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
Updated 18 February 2019
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UK lawmakers say Facebook needs independent ethical oversight

  • Panel slams Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for "a failure of leadership and personal responsibility"
  • Facebook became the focus of the committee’s 18-month inquiry over the Cambridge Analytica scandal

LONDON: 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, British lawmakers said on Monday.
In a damning report that singled out Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for what it said was a failure of leadership and personal responsibility, the UK parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee 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 apologize than ask permission,” committee chairman Damian Collins said.
“We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people.”
Collins said the age of inadequate self-regulation must come to an end.
“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,” he said.
Facebook became the focus of the committee’s 18-month inquiry after whistleblower Christopher Wylie alleged that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica had obtained the data of millions of users of the social network.
Zuckerberg apologized last year for a “breach of trust” over the scandal.
But he refused to appear three times before British lawmakers, a stance that showed “contempt” toward 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.”
The lawmaker identified major threats to society from the dominance of tech companies such as Facebook — which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram — Google and Twitter.
Democracy was at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalized adverts from unidentifiable sources, they said, and social media platforms were failing to act against harmful content and respect the privacy of users.
Companies like Facebook were also using their size to bully smaller firms that relied on social media platforms to reach customers, it added.


French Muslim group sues Facebook, YouTube over NZ attack video

Updated 25 March 2019
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French Muslim group sues Facebook, YouTube over NZ attack video

  • The council said it was suing the French branches of the two tech giants for “broadcasting a message with violent content"

PARIS: The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) said Monday it was suing Internet giants Facebook and YouTube for allowing the public broadcast of a live video by the man who carried out the New Zealand mosque massacre this month.
The council said it was suing the French branches of the two tech giants for “broadcasting a message with violent content abetting terrorism, or of a nature likely to seriously violate human dignity and liable to be seen by a minor,” according to the complaint, a copy of which was seen by AFP.
In France, such acts can be punished by three years’ imprisonment and a 75,000 euro ($85,000) fine.
Facebook said it “quickly” removed the live video showing the killing of 50 people by a white supremacist in twin mosque attacks in Christchurch on March 15.
But the livestream lasting 17 minutes was shared extensively on YouTube and Twitter, and Internet platforms had to scramble to remove videos being reposted of the gruesome scene.
The CFCM, which represents several million Muslims in France, said it took Facebook 29 minutes after the beginning of the broadcast to take it down.
Major Internet platforms have pledged to crack down on the sharing of violent images and other inappropriate content through automated systems and human monitoring, but critics say this is not working.
Internet platforms have cooperated to develop technology that filters child pornography, but have stopped short of joining forces on violent content.
A US congressional panel last week called on top executives from Facebook and YouTube, as well as Microsoft and Twitter, to explain the online proliferation of the “horrific” New Zealand video.
The panel, the House Committee on Homeland Security, said it was “critically important” to filter the kind of violent images seen in the video.