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British Lawmakers Urge Tougher Rules for Facebook

The committee also said that the Information Commissioner's Office needed more money so it could hire technical experts to be the "sheriff in the Wild West of the internet.''

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A Facebook billboard advertisement can be seen at Earls Court underground station in London, July 28, 2018. (VOA)
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The U.K. government should increase oversight of social media like Facebook and election campaigns to protect democracy in the digital age, a parliamentary committee has recommended in a scathing report on fake news, data misuse and interference by Russia.

The interim report by the House of Commons’ media committee, to be released Sunday, said democracy is facing a crisis because the combination of data analysis and social media allows campaigns to target voters with messages of hate without their consent.

Tech giants like Facebook, which operate in a largely unregulated environment, are complicit because they haven’t done enough to protect personal information and remove harmful content, the committee said.

“The light of transparency must be allowed to shine on their operations and they must be made responsible, and liable, for the way in which harmful and misleading content is shared on their sites,” committee Chairman Damian Collins said in a statement.

The copy of the study was leaked Friday by Dominic Cummings, director of the official campaign group backing Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Social media companies are under scrutiny worldwide following allegations that political consultant Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to profile voters and help U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign. The committee is also investigating the impact of fake news distributed via social media sites.

Collins ripped Facebook for allowing Russian agencies to use its platform to spread disinformation and influence elections.

“I believe what we have discovered so far is the tip of the iceberg,” he said, adding that more work needed to be done to expose how fake accounts target people during elections. “The ever-increasing sophistication of these campaigns, which will soon be helped by developments in augmented reality technology, make this an urgent necessity.”

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FILE – A protester wearing a mask with the face of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, in between men wearing angry face emoji masks, is seen during a demonstration against Facebook outside Portcullis in London, April 26, 2018. (VOA)

The committee recommended that the British government increase the power of the Information Commissioner’s Office to regulate social media sites, update electoral laws to reflect modern campaign techniques and increase the transparency of political advertising on social media.

Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to address the issue in a so-called White Paper to be released in the fall. She signaled her unease last year, accusing Russia of meddling in elections and planting fake news to sow discord in the West.

The committee began its work in January 2017, interviewing 61 witnesses during 20 hearings that took on an investigatory tone not normally found in such forums in the House of Commons.

The report criticized Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg for failing to appear before the panel and said his stand-ins were “unwilling or unable to give full answers to the committee’s questions.”

One of the committee’s recommendations is that the era of light-touch regulation for social media must end.

Social media companies can no longer avoid oversight by describing themselves as platforms, because they use technology to filter and shape the information users see. Nor are they publishers, since that model traditionally commissions and pays for content.

Also Read: Facebook Grooming 7,500 Content Reviewers for Objectionable Posts

“We recommend that a new category of tech company is formulated, which tightens tech companies’ liabilities, and which is not necessarily either a ‘platform’ or a ‘publisher,” the report said. “We anticipate that the government will put forward these proposals in its White Paper later this year.”

The committee also said that the Information Commissioner’s Office needed more money so it could hire technical experts to be the “sheriff in the Wild West of the internet.” The funds would come from a levy on the tech companies, much in the same way as the banks pay for the upkeep of the Financial Conduct Authority.

“Our democracy is at risk, and now is the time to act, to protect our shared values and the integrity of our democratic institutions,” the committee said. (VOA)

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Reaches Out to Microsoft President For Help

A recent CNBC report claimed that Facebook employees were contacting former colleagues to look for jobs outside the company

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Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg. VOA

Embroiled in massive data scandals amid losing stock and market cap, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly spoken to Microsoft President Brad Smith exploring the possibility of him joining the social networking platform and bring it back to glory.

According to a report in The Information on Monday, Zuckerberg spoke directly to Smith on how to build trust at Facebook.

“While the conversation didn’t involve a formal job offer, Mr. Smith still felt compelled to let Mr. Zuckerberg know he was happy at Microsoft and had no desire to leave,” the report said, quoting a person familiar with the talks.

According to the report, Mark Zuckerberg usually seeks advice from billionaire Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.

Another report from Wall Street Journal claimed last month that Gates suggested to Zuckerberg that Facebook consider hiring someone with a profile like that of Smith who can tackle regulators and lawmakers around the world — gunning for Facebook over frequent users’ data breaches and a recent expose of internal emails.

Facebook and Microsoft were yet to comment on the reports.

A New York Times investigation last month suggested that the social network under Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg hired a Republican-owned political consulting and PR firm that “dug up dirt on its competitors” including Soros.

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Facebook CEO reaches out to Microsoft President for help: Report. Flickr

Reacting to the report, Mark Zuckerberg and Sandberg denied they had any prior knowledge about this firm.

Later, Facebook’s outgoing Head of Communications and Policy Elliot Schrage took the full responsibility for hiring the political consulting and PR firm Definers Public Affairs.

Facebook has also lost the tag of best place to work in the US.

According to the leading job website Glassdoor’s annual “100 Best Places to Work in the US” list, Facebook is now ranked No 7 — scoring 4.5 out of a perfect 5.

Also Read- Actress Katrina Kaif Feels Herself Fortunate For Everything She Has Gone Through

The Glassdoor list came at a time when media reports said several Facebook employees are looking for better opportunities as scrutiny of the company’s conduct rises following several cases of data leak and as its stock price takes a beating.

A recent CNBC report claimed that Facebook employees were contacting former colleagues to look for jobs outside the company. (IANS)