FACEBOOK EXECUTIVES have been smalled as "digital gangsters" in a damning report from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee.
The report, which follows an 18-month investigation into 'fake news' by the committee, concludes that Facebook deliberately broke privacy and competition law and should be subject to a compulsory code of ethics overseen by an independent regulator.
The DCMS is also calling for an urgent investigation by the Information Commissioner, which has already fined Facebook £500,000 for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Citing internal documents given to it late last year by software firm Six4Three, the report says Facebook "intentionally and knowingly" violated laws by selling people's private data without their permission.
"Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like 'digital gangsters' in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law," the report said.
"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.
"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 also takes aim at Mark Zuckerberg, saying he treated treating Parliament with "contempt" by refusing to appear personally before the committee to answer questions about Cambridge Analytica.
"Even if Mark Zuckerberg doesn't believe he is accountable to the UK Parliament, he is to the billions of Facebook users across the world," the committee wrote. "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."
While it debunked rejected the committee's claims that it breached antitrust and data privacy laws, Facebook said it welcomed the report and would be open to "meaningful regulation".
"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." µ
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