A United Kingdom parliamentary committee has accused Facebook of being "digital gangsters"

Luis Davilla  Getty Images

Luis Davilla Getty Images

Britain's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee completed an 18-month investigation into Facebook's role in the spread of disinformation online.

"This ends the idea that tech companies are just platforms, that they are independent and that the responsibility for the content lies exclusively on the person who posted it", Collins said in a phone interview.

The lawmakers urged parliament to impose a mandatory code of conduct on social media sites, and have them overseen by an independent regulator.

"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. It suggested that an independent regulator be set up to oversee tech companies with powers to launch legal action against those breaching the code.

"We also support effective privacy legislation that holds companies to high standards in their use of data and transparency for users".

Facebook acknowledged past mistakes and said it was open to "meaningful regulation".

The 108-page report makes excoriating reading for the social media giant, which is accused of continuing to prioritize shareholders' profits over users' privacy rights.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Senate committees in April.

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.

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"W$3 e believe that Facebook knew that there was evidence of overseas interference and that Mr Milner misled us when he gave evidence in February 2018", the report said.

The committee also stated that social media companies are obliged to take down known sources of harmful content, including proven sources of disinformation.

In a damning report, they accused social media firms of behaving like "digital gangsters", and said Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg showed "contempt" towards Parliament by failing to appear before MPs.

Facebook has since responded to the report but did not address the comments directly taking aim at Zuckerberg.

But representatives for Zuckerberg rebuffed every invitation, including one from the International Grand Committee investigating fake news, made up of representatives from nine countries across the world, which met in Parliament last November.

Cambridge Analytica was a political advertising firm that had access to the data of millions of users, some of which was alleged used to psychologically profile U.S. voters.

The committee's report was made as part of a broader investigation into the spread of fake content and misinformation online.

"While we still have more to do, we are not the same company we were a year ago", said Karim Palant, public policy manager for Facebook in the United Kingdom.

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. He reiterated his threat to force Zuckerberg to testify before Parliament if he ever travels to Britain, a statement Collins first made after the Facebook executive repeatedly declined to appear at hearings previous year.

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