The British Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said in a report released Monday that a series of internal Facebook emails it reviewed showed that the social media platform was "aware and knowledgeable" violated both data protection and competition laws.  The cache of documents reviewed by the committee, some of which include correspondence between Zuckerberg and company executives, stems from a lawsuit filed in California against Facebook ( FB ) . The committee received the documents late last year from a small app company called Six4Three, which is behind the lawsuit.
According to the committee, the documents show that Facebook "was willing to override the privacy settings of its users to transfer data". to app developers. Lawmakers also claim that the documents show that the social network "starved" some data developers and forced them out of business.
"Companies like Facebook should not behave like" digital gangsters "in the online world, believing they are ahead of the law and beyond," the report says.
In response to the Facebook report, it said it did not violate privacy or competition laws. Karim Palant, Public Policy Manager of Facebook in the UK, said in a statement that the company "supports effective data protection legislation" and is also suitable for "meaningful regulation".
Facebook said in December that the documents from the Six4Three lawsuit had been "selectively leaked," "to tell just one side of the story." CNN and other news agencies had asked the Californian court to make the documents available to the public.
The allegations represent the recent headache for the social media giant, which has been heavily investigated by data scandals including Cambridge Analytica, following a series of policy makers in the US and around the world.
While Facebook was a major focus of the report, the Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport made several recommendations to combat counterfeit news and disinformation.
The committee said:
- Social media platforms should be subject to a compulsory code of ethics.
- An independent UK regulator should oversee the technology companies and be able to take legal action against them.
- UK The antitrust authorities should carry out a comprehensive review of the advertising market in social media.
- UK regulators should investigate whether Facebook was involved in anticompetitive practices.
- The government should investigate the recent elections for evidence of election manipulation.
The committee's investigation lasted 1
8 months and was presented with nearly two dozen oral evidences, including a special hearing in Washington DC and an "International Grand Committee" attended by representatives from nine countries. The final report included over 100 pages.
"The big tech companies should not be allowed to expand exponentially, without coercion or regulatory oversight," the report said. "Only governments and the law are powerful enough to contain them."
The report sharply criticized Facebook and Zuckerberg, who repeatedly refused to appear before the committee despite numerous requests last year.
"The management structure of Facebook is opaque to people outside the company, and this seemed to obscure the knowledge and responsibility for certain decisions," the report said. "Facebook used the strategy to send witnesses who said they were the most appropriate representatives, but was not informed about important issues and could not or did not want to answer many of our questions."
The authors of the report said they had done so "undoubtedly, this strategy was deliberate."
Damian Collins, the chairman of the committee, said in a statement, Zuckerberg "repeatedly fails to demonstrate the leadership and personal responsibility that should be expected of someone who sits at the top of one of the world's largest companies."
The UK authorities ruled last year that Facebook violated British law by not protecting user data and telling tens of millions of people why Cambridge Analytica collected their information for use in political campaigns.
Palant, Facebook's Public Policy Manager, announces that the company shares "the committee's concerns about false news and election integrity" and that it "made" one significant contribution to their investigation "by answering more than 700 questions.
Palant also highlighted the" significant changes "in the political advertising standards the company has made.
" No other political advertising channel is so transparent and provides the tools we use, "said Palant." We've tripled the size of the team working to detect and protect users from bad content to 30,000 people and much in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and computer vision Technology invests to prevent this type of abuse. "