LONDON – The British government should increase its control over social media such as Facebook and election campaigns to protect democracy in the digital age, a parliamentary committee has recommended in a devastating report fake news, data abuse and interference by Russia.
The Interim Report of the Lower House Media Committee on Sunday announces that democracy is facing a crisis because the combination of data analysis and social media campaigns allows voters to address hate messages without their consent.
Tech giants like Facebook, who operate in a largely unregulated environment, are complicit. They have not done enough to protect personal information and remove harmful content, the committee said.
"The light of transparency must be allowed to shine on their operations, and they must be held accountable for the way in which harmful and misleading content is shared on their pages," said committee chairman Damian Collins, in a statement.
The study was published Friday by Dominic Cummings, the head of the official election campaign group that supports Britain's exit from the European Union.
Social media companies face claims by political analyst Cambridge Analytica worldwide to monitor data from millions of Facebook accounts to help voters spotlight US President Donald Trump's election campaign in 201
Collins ripped off Facebook because it allowed Russian agencies to use their platform to spread disinformation and influence elections.
"I believe what we have discovered so far is the tip of the iceberg," he said, adding that more needs to be done to uncover how false accounts target people in elections. "The progressive development of these campaigns, which will soon be supported by developments in augmented reality technology, makes this an urgent necessity."
READ ONLY: Zuckerberg Clarifies Statements Concerning the Treatment of Counterfeit News 19659004] The Committee recommended that the UK Government use the powers of the Information Commissioner's Office to regulate social media sites to update electoral laws Increase awareness of modern campaigning techniques and increase the transparency of social media advertising.
Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to tackle the problem in a so-called White Paper to be published in the fall. Last year, she signaled her unease and accused Russia of interfering in elections and spreading fake messages to sow discord in the West.
The committee began work in January 2017 and interviewed 61 witnesses during 20 hearings, which usually did not take an investigative tone
The report criticized Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for not appearing in front of the panel and said his deputies were "unwilling or unable to fully answer the Committee's questions."  One of the recommendations of the committee is that the era of light touch regulation for social media must come to an end.
Social media companies can no longer handle control by seeing themselves as a platform describing information users. Nor are they publishers, as this model traditionally orders and pays for content.
"We recommend formulating a new category of technology companies that will increase the liabilities of technology companies and not necessarily either a 'platform' or" publisher, "the report said." We assume that the government will present these proposals later this year in its White Paper. "
The committee also said that the Information Commissioner's office needs more money to hire technical experts as the" Sheriff of the Wild West "from the Internet." The media would come from a levy on the tech companies, much like the banks pay for the maintenance of the Financial Conduct Authority.
"Our democracy is in danger, and now is the time to act to protect our common values and the integrity of our democratic institutions," said the committee.