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Facebook is a law-breaking "digital gangster", United Kingdom government report says

18 February 2019

In a report on online political disinformation and data misuse by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, Facebook is accused of deliberately breaking privacy and competition laws multiple times and should be subject to statutory regulation "urgently". Evidence uncovered by my committee shows he still has questions to answer yet he's continued to duck them, refusing to respond to our invitations directly or sending representatives who don't have the right information.

In the course of its investigations, the committee examined the ways in which Facebook might have impacted the outcome of elections, including possible Russian interference, ad targeting and access to user data that violated the privacy rights of users.

The sharp rebuke came in a 108-page report written by members of Parliament, who in 2017 began a wide-ranging study of Facebook and the spread of malicious content online.

Social media firms required to remove known sources of harmful content and disinformation.

"Facebook's handling of personal data, and its use for political campaigns, are prime and legitimate areas for inspection by regulators, and it should not be able to evade all editorial responsibility for the content shared by its users across its platforms", the report also said.

"Among the countless innocuous postings of celebrations and holiday snaps, some malicious forces use Facebook to threaten and harass others, to publish revenge porn, to disseminate hate speech and propaganda of all kinds, and to influence elections and democratic processes-much of which Facebook, and other social media companies, are either unable or unwilling to prevent", the report read.

Facebook has taken "aggressive positions" against direct competitors, leading to data access denial - or acquisitions.

Germany has been at the forefront of the backlash against Facebook, fuelled by last year's Cambridge Analytica scandal in which tens of millions of Facebook profiles were harvested without their users' consent.

Facebook, however, said it had cooperated with the investigation by answering more than 700 questions and putting forward four senior executives to give evidence.

The report says social media sites should not be allow to behave like "digital gangsters", considering themselves beyond the law, the Daily Mail of London reported.

Although Facebook has publicly stated it would be open to "the right kind of regulation", MPs did not believe the United States tech company really was.

It said it had made substantial changes, including the authorisation of every political advert, and it was investing heavily in identifying abusive content. At the time, Facebook said the documents omitted important context and only revealed "one side of the story'".

"The big tech companies are failing in the duty of care they owe to their users", said Damian Collins, chair of the committee.

And the social media company readily ignored its users' privacy settings to make money from other developers.

MPs made no secret of the fact that they found it hard dealing with Facebook during the inquiry and chair Damian Collins had strong words for the firm and its leader, Mr Zuckerberg.

The call from Parliament for further scrutiny of Facebook adds to the tech giant's mounting legal and political woes globally, escalating the potential for fines and other penalties.

"The age of inadequate self-regulation must come to an end".

The company has "a fundamental weakness in managing its responsibilities to the people whose data is used for its own commercial interests", and is only moved to act when " serious breaches become public".

Facebook is a law-breaking