Facebook Targeted in Scathing Report by British Parliament – The New York Times

The parliamentary report recommends the creation of a British watchdog to oversee the technology industry, similar to the country’s approach to regulating media companies. It also suggested legally requiring Facebook and other large internet platforms to remove what the government determines to be harmful content, or risk fines or other punishments.

Silicon Valley has long opposed making tech companies responsible for content on their sites. The industry argues that websites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are simply unbiased platforms for others to share material, and that new restrictions could impede free speech.

“Social media companies cannot hide behind the claim of being merely a ‘platform’ and maintain that they have no responsibility themselves in regulating the content of their sites,” the parliamentary report said.

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

“While we still have more to do, we are not the same company we were a year ago,” said Karim Palant, a public policy manager for Facebook in Britain. “We have tripled the size of the team working to detect and protect users from bad content to 30,000 people and invested heavily in machine learning, artificial intelligence and computer vision technology to help prevent this type of abuse.”

The blistering report concludes the committee’s work, which started as a study of how social media can be manipulated to influence elections like Britain’s 2016 vote to exit the European Union, but became a closer examination of Facebook business practices. The committee held several hearings related to Facebook’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica, the voter-targeting firm that gained access to 87 million Facebook users.

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