The UK government thinks it's time for Facebook to be regulated

Luis Davilla  Getty Images

Luis Davilla Getty Images

But he hasn't appeared before British Parliament, despite its requests for him to do so.

The UK's Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee (DCMSC) on Monday released its report on fake news following an 18-month inquiry, which has taken in evidence from 73 witnesses.

Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said the "era of self-regulation for tech companies must end immediately".

The committee published a report on Monday after reviewing documents and emails that it had appropriated from a case filed against Facebook by another tech company.

It also noted that current electoral law is not fit for goal in failing to reflect online micro-targeted campaigning, and called for absolute transparency of political campaigning with clear banners on all paid-for political advertisements and videos, identifying the source and the advertiser.

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 should not be allowed to behave like "digital gangsters" online, and company representatives should not be able to "consider themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law".

"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", Damian Collins, an MP and chairman of...

The committee is particularly irritated by Mark Zuckerberg's refusal to appear before Parliament. "It seems clear that Facebook was, at the very least, in violation of its Federal Trade Commission settlement".

However, the news report said British lawmakers confirmed they saw evidence that Facebook was happy to "override its users' privacy settings in order to transfer data to some app developers". In the United States, Facebook is also under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, which is weighing whether the firm ran afoul of a 2011 agreement it brokered with the US government to improve its privacy practices.

The British government said it welcomed the report's contribution toward "our work to tackle the increasing threat of disinformation and to make the United Kingdom the safest place to be online".

Some of the report's recommendations take aim at tech companies' most tightly held information.

"Much of [this] Facebook and other social media companies are either unable or unwilling to prevent", the report found. The regulator "should also have access to tech companies' security mechanisms and algorithms, to ensure they are operating responsibly". It said Facebook had cooperated with the DCMSC inquiry.

It also singles out Facebook saying that the social media giant "intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws".

Transparency on political advertising is something which Facebook has been working on, but it's far from ideal, as evidenced by an openDemocracy investigation on the mysterious money funding pro-Brexit campaigns.

The committee further accused Facebook of offering Netflix and other popular apps preferential access to people's data even after it had tightened its privacy rules.

Karim Palant, UK public policy manager at Facebook, admitted that the company has more work to do but claimed it is "not the same company we were a year ago".

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