The report warned of a democratic crisis founded on the manipulation of personal data which targeted users with pernicious views, particularly during elections and referenda. Its recommendations to Government aimed at tackling the growing threat from disinformation and fake news.
Only three of the report’s forty-two recommendations have been accepted outright by Government, with four recommendations rejected. The Government has given no response to a further nine recommendations.
Damian Collins MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
“The government’s response to our interim report on disinformation and ‘fake news’ is disappointing and a missed opportunity. It uses other ongoing investigations to further delay desperately needed announcements on the ongoing issues of harmful and misleading content being spread through social media.
“We need to see a more coordinated approach across government to combat campaigns of disinformation being organised by Russian agencies seeking to disrupt and undermine our democracy. The government’s response gives us no real indication of what action is being taken on this important issue.
“We welcome though the strong words from the Government in its demand for action by Facebook to tackle the hate speech that has contributed to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Burma.
“We will be looking for the government to make progress on these and other areas in response to our final report which will be published in December. We will also be raising these issues with the Secretary of State for DCMS, Jeremy Wright, when he gives evidence to the Committee on Wednesday this week.”
On making tech companies responsible and liable:
The Committee is disappointed that the Government has provided no response to its call for the Electoral Commission to establish a code for advertising through social media during election periods, and the recommendation that Facebook and other platforms take responsibility for the way their platforms are used. The Government made no response to Facebook’s failure to respond adequately to the Committee’s inquiry and Mark Zuckerberg’s reluctance to appear as a witness.
On imposing a levy on tech companies to fund education in digital literacy:
The Committee is disappointed that the Government has rejected its recommendation for an educational levy to be raised by social media companies to finance a comprehensive educational framework.
On changing the rules on political campaigning:
The Committee is disappointed that the Government has rejected its recommendation in support of The Electoral Commission to change the rules on political spending and limit individual donations.
On an audit of fake accounts by the Competition and Market Authority (CMA):
The Committee is disappointed that the Government made no response to its recommendation for an audit of the advertising market by the CMA to identify fake accounts on sites operate by companies like Facebook and Twitter.
On ‘malign actors’:
The Committee is disappointed that the Government appears to be hiding behind ‘ongoing investigations’ to avoid responding to its recommendation that the National Crime Agency urgently carries out its own investigation into allegations involving a number of companies.