Monday, 30 July 2018 11:15

UK wants tech companies to be liable for spread of 'fake news'


A British Government panel has recommended that technology companies should be made responsible and liable for the spread of disinformation and "fake news".

In an interim report in its Disinformation and "fake news" inquiry, the government's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said the country was facing "a democratic crisis founded on the manipulation of personal data, and targeting pernicious views to users, particularly during elections and referenda".

The inquiry was undertaken in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal – allegations that the company used data from millions of Facebook accounts to target voters in the US presidential election.

Damian Collins, MP and chair of the committee, said: "We are facing nothing less than a crisis in our democracy – based on the systematic manipulation of data to support the relentless targeting of citizens, without their consent, by campaigns of disinformation and messages of hate.

"We heard evidence of co-ordinated campaigns by Russian agencies to influence how people vote in elections around the world. This includes running adverts through Facebook during elections in other countries and in breach of their laws.

"Facebook failed to spot this at the time, and it was only discovered after repeated requests were made for them to look for evidence of this activity.

"Users were unaware that they were being targeted by political adverts from Russia, because they were made to look like they came from their own country, and there was no information available at all about the true identity of the advertiser."

Among the other interim recommendations of the panel is the imposition of a levy on tech companies to fund education and the Information Commissioners Office, changing the rules on political campaigning, an audit of fake accounts by the Competition and Market Authority, and a digital Atlantic charter to reassure users that their digital rights are protected.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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