UK MPs call for “urgent” Facebook regulation

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UK MPs have declared Facebook needs stricter regulation, with “tough and urgent action” necessary to end the spread of disinformation on its platform.

The Commons media select committee has concluded that Mark Zuckerberg failed to show “leadership or personal responsibility” over fake news.

Facebook welcomed the committee’s report and said it would be open to “meaningful regulation”.

MPs said that what was needed to deal with the proliferation of disinformation online and the misuse of personal data was a “radical shift in the balance of power between social media platforms and the people”.

“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 every day,” concluded the report. “The big tech companies are failing in the duty of care they owe to their users to act against harmful content, and to respect their data privacy rights.”

The report called for:

  • a compulsory code of ethics for tech companies, overseen by an independent regulator
  • the regulator to be given powers to launch legal action if companies breach the code
  • the government to reform current electoral laws and rules on overseas involvement in UK elections
  • social media companies to be forced to take down known sources of harmful content, including proven sources of disinformation
  • tech companies operating in the UK to be taxed to help fund the work for the Information Commissioner’s Office and any new regulator set up to oversee them.

Facebook responded: “We share the committee’s concerns about false news and election integrity and are pleased to have made a significant contribution to their investigation over the past 18 months, answering more than 700 questions and with four of our most senior executives giving evidence. We are open to meaningful regulation and support the committee’s recommendation for electoral law reform. But we’re not waiting. We have already made substantial changes so that every political ad on Facebook has to be authorised, state who is paying for it and then is stored in a searchable archive for seven years. No other channel for political advertising is as transparent and offers the tools that we do.”


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