Big quote: "Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like 'digital gangsters' in the online world. Facebook is considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law" - British lawmakers on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, who concluded that Facebook should be subject to an investigation and a new code of ethics over their privacy breaches and inability to curtail false content on the platform.
Facebook's recent woes continue, with the social media giant now being the target of calls for an investigation into their business practices in the United Kingdom.
According to British lawmakers on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Facebook "intentionally and knowing violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws" in the UK, signaling their intention to investigate the company and adopt new regulations to stem these accusations.
The caustic rebuke was part of a 108-page report issued by the committee, concluding a study into Facebook and the spread of malicious and false content online that began in 2017. The study concludes that companies like Facebook should be held to a "compulsory Code of Ethics, overseen by an independent regulator," and calls for regulations to hold Facebook accountable for misdeeds and privacy breaches.
"Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like 'digital gangsters' in the online world," the report states. "[Facebook is] considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law."
The report also concludes that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg "failed to show leadership or responsibility" over the fake news that proliferated through the site during the 2016 election cycle.
Fake news and misinformation continue to be a problem on the platform, although Facebook has undertaken counter-measures to remove false or misleading content. Zuckerberg refused to testify before the committee, and the company issued a statement defending their recent focus on content integrity:
"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."
In addition to the calls for regulation, the committee also called for a broad, compulsory code of ethics for all tech companies to follow, the power to launch legal action if that code is breached, a reform of electoral laws and overseas involvement in UK elections, and new taxes levied on tech companies operating in the UK to help fund the new oversight initiatives.
This news comes on the heels of Facebook negotiating a record-setting fine with the FTC over its privacy practices. This isn't the first time Facebook has been in hot water overseas; they could soon be slapped with a $1.63 billion dollar fine for violating the GDPR, and were already fined £500,000 for failing to protect user data under the GDPR.