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Here’s Why Facebook Was Labelled ‘Digital Gangsters’ by UK Lawmakers

In its final report, the committee called for stricter regulation to make Facebook end spread of disinformation on its platform

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Facebook, data,photos
A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

During its 18-month-long investigation into disinformation and “fake news”, a committee of the UK Parliament invited Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before it three times. Zuckerberg didn’t show up once.

This was, however, not the only reason why in its final report on Monday, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee accused Facebook of behaving like “digital gangsters” in the online world.

Facebook, which has over 2.32 billion users globally and made $40 billion in revenue in 2017, considers itself to be ahead of and beyond the law, according to the committee which concluded that the social networking giant intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws.

“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,” Damian Collins, Chair of the DCMS Committee, said in a statement.

In its final report, the committee called for stricter regulation to make Facebook end spread of disinformation on its platform.

“Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use everyday,” Collins said.

Facebook
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg. VOA

The report highlights Facebook documents obtained by the committee relating to a Californian court case brought by US-based app developer Six4Three.

Through scrutiny of internal Facebook emails between 2011 and 2015, the report found evidence to indicate that the company was willing to override its users’ privacy settings in order to transfer data to some app developers.

The investigation found that Facebook was willing to charge high prices in advertising to some developers, for the exchange of data, and starve some developers — such as Six4Three — of that data, contributing to them losing their business.

The now-defunct start-up Six4Three alleged that Facebook collected information on users and their friends through its apps.

Launched in 2017, the inquiry intensified after the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal became public.

In the 108-page report, the UK lawmakers accused Facebook of continuing to prioritise shareholders’ profits over users’ privacy rights.

“We are open to meaningful regulation and support the committee’s recommendation for electoral law reform,” Karim Palant, Facebook’s UK public policy manager, was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

Facebook
Facebook, social media. Pixabay

Social media companies have come under increased scrutiny of policymakers around the world for their failure to curb hate speeches and arrest the spread of false information in their platforms.

In India, a parliamentary committee summoned Twitter Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jack Dorsey to appear before it on February 11 over allegations of the social media site discriminating against “nationalist” posts on its platform.

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Dorsey refused to appear before the committee citing “short notice” period, forcing the committee to again summon the Twitter CEO to appear before it on February 25.

While it is still not clear whether Dorsey will show up this time, reports suggests that the Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology (IT) of the Indian Parliament could also invite Facebook and WhatsApp executives to appear before it. (IANS)

Next Story

US Judge Orders Facebook to Disclose Malicious Apps’ Data: Report

The social networking giant found that the apps -- primarily social media management and video streaming apps -- retained access to group member information, like names and profile pictures in connection with group activity, from the Groups API (application programming interface)

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Social Media, Facebook, Authenticity, Posts
The social media application, Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store, July 30, 2019. VOA

As part of a probe ordered in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal involving 87 million users, a US judge has ordered Facebook to hand over data of thousands of apps that violated its user privacy.

Facebook admitted last year that it suspended “tens of thousands” of apps for possible privacy violations.

A Massachusetts judge rejected the social networking giant’s attempts to withhold the key details from state investigators, The Washington Post said in a report on Friday.

“We are disappointed that the Massachusetts Attorney General and the Court didn’t fully consider our arguments on well-established law. We are reviewing our options, including appeal,” a Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone was quoted as saying in the report.

Maura Healey, the Democratic Attorney General of Massachusetts, said: “We are pleased that the Court ordered Facebook to tell our office which other app developers may have engaged in conduct like Cambridge Analytica.”

facebook, instant games
FILE – Attendees walk past a Facebook logo during Facebook Inc’s F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, United States. VOA

The state of Massachusetts launched the probe last September after Facebook admitted that it had suspended “tens of thousands” of apps on its platform as a result of its review on privacy practices launched following the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica.

The review, launched in 2018, followed revelations that the political consultancy hijacked personal data on millions of Facebook users and included attorneys, external investigators, data scientists, engineers, policy specialists and others, according to a Facebook statement.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal resulted in a record-breaking, $5 billion fine for Facebook from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

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In November 2019, Facebook revealed that at least 100 app developers may have accessed Facebook users’ data for months, confirming that at least 11 partners “accessed group members’ information in the last 60 days”.

The social networking giant found that the apps — primarily social media management and video streaming apps — retained access to group member information, like names and profile pictures in connection with group activity, from the Groups API (application programming interface). (IANS)