The digital, culture, media and sport committee today published its findings into disinformation and fake news, and it is absolutely scathing about the harms that Facebook is doing to individuals, society, and the political process.
TBH I’m not sure if the report was only meant to focus on Facebook, but this particular company is most definitely the main focus, and there is literally nothing good to be said about the company.
The investigation took 18 months and it covers all sorts of scandals Facebook has been involved in, such as Cambridge Analytica. I’ve never seen anything like it TBH!
The report details the various harms the company inflicts on us, organised roughly into the following:
- The tracking of users selling on of user data for profit (via advertising) without the explicit consent of individuals
- Failing to do anything about harmful content posted online – such as with the self-harm pictures in the Molly Russel suicide case
- Allowing fake news to be posted which influences elections and democratic process and polarises public opinion.
- Effectively allowing foreign governments to manipulate the outcome of elections.
In a nutshell, the report concludes that Facebook profits from allowing malicious forces to spread hate, lies and uncertainty.
What’s also interesting is how damning the report is of Facebook’s contempt of the international committee which was established to investigate it….
Mark Zuckerberg refused to appear in front of them three times, while posting on his Facebook page that he was happy to co-operate with them.
Instead the company sent lesser representatives who the committee believe were picked deliberately because they were unable to answer certain questions put of them, and it speaks of a ‘contemptuous’ attitude which the Facebook top-tier has towards government, essentially believing itself to be above regulation. The report even says the company’s structured opaquely to avoid proper investigation.
The company speaks a good game, always saying how it is happy to co-operate and how it is engaging in ‘voluntary regulation’, but in practice it really seeks to carry on with business as usual.
How valid is this report?
The report doesn’t exactly come across as neutral… it really is damning of Facebook. Whether this is because the company annoyed the committee by obscuring its investigation I don’t know.
However, it’s well known that Facebook has been involved in all sorts of scandals, and so maybe this utter condemnation of this company is the result of a dispassionate analysis – it’s quite possible given that there were several people involved in the committee from 8 countries besides Britain….maybe the final write up really is just an objective reflection of what Facebook is – a pernicious force which profits from spreading lies, hate and confusion.
How to reign it in? That’s a question I’ll come back to at a later date!