The Commons DCMS Committee’s report into Fake News and misuse of social media platforms had been embargoed until midnight last night, but rumours were already circulating that Damian Collins and his Parliamentary colleagues had produced what was termed “explosive”. In the cold light of day, we can see just how explosive, although it depends on whose report one chooses to read.
While the BBC has reported “Facebook needs far stricter regulation, with tough and urgent action necessary to end the spread of disinformation on its platform, MPs have said … A Commons committee has concluded that the firm's founder Mark Zuckerberg failed to show ‘leadership or personal responsibility’ over fake news”, the report in the Guardian tells us what Collins and his pals really thought.
Damian Collins MP
From the headline “Facebook labelled 'digital gangsters' by report on fake news … Company broke privacy and competition law and should be regulated urgently, say MPs”, it is clear that the DCMS committee were unimpressed by Facebook’s behaviour, with Collins warning “Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use every day”.
And that is down to Facebook and other platforms like Twitter. But it is Mark Zuckerberg and his merry band who get both barrels, with the report accusing Zuck “of contempt for parliament in refusing three separate demands for him to give evidence, instead sending junior employees unable to answer the committee’s questions”.
Guess who wants it all to just carry on as before?
It got worse: the report warned “British electoral law is unfit for purpose and vulnerable to interference by hostile foreign actors, including agents of the Russian government attempting to discredit democracy” and called for an investigation into interference in not only the 2016 EU referendum, but the 2017 General Election and the Scottish independence vote in 2014, too. Labour’s Tom Watson has backed the conclusions.
But, in an Oh-What-A-Giveaway moment that suggests someone has not been thinking this through, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have registered their unhappiness. Yesterday they told “Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright makes it clear that the Government will be pressing ahead with heavy-handed knee-jerk regulation of social media companies”. And today has brought more in the same vein.
Replacement Fawkes teaboy Tom Harwood bleated “Damian Collins calling to end platform neutral status for internet companies is beyond insane. If twitter, facebook, etc become classed as publishers then wave goodbye to the internet as we know it”.
To which the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, who knows a little about the misuse of Facebook during that 2016 EU referendum campaign, shot back “Hot take from Guido journalist implicated in biggest electoral fraud of century & facilitated by Facebook”.
The ones already protesting about regulation are the ones already in the mire up to their necks. But good of the Fawkes teaboy to make sure we all know. Another fine mess.
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