Facebook “intentionally and knowingly” violated U.K. data privacy and anti-competition laws and urgently needs to be regulated and investigated, a scathing new report by British lawmakers said. The final report issued Monday by the U.K.’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee concluded an 18-month investigation into Facebook and other social media companies for their role in spreading “fake news” and disinformation. “Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law,” the report said.
Germany is moving to break up Facebook’s dominant position in gathering data about social media users. The country’s antitrust office ruled Thursday that Facebook is abusing its virtual monopoly in social media by combining data from Instagram, WhatsApp and third party websites. The office said Facebook (FB) used the data to build a unique profile about each user to gain more market power. In future, Facebook will have to seek German users’ explicit consent to collect and combine such data. The Bundeskartellamt ordered Facebook to come up with proposals for how to do this.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine sued Facebook on Wednesday for the company’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook is accused of allowing the collection of personal data of millions of users by a third party. Facebook is also under investigation by the Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission.
A collection of internal emails released by the UK parliament revealed that Facebook staff considered selling user data to major advertisers. The documents show that Facebook used data for strategic advantage from 2012 to 2015 to favor partners and punish rivals. CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed using data to ‘increase the value’ of the network.
The president of George Soros’s philanthropy called for oversight of Facebook by U.S. lawmakers after the social media company confirmed it hired a controversial public relations outfit to research the billionaire financier. Facebook’s departing policy and communications chief, Elliot Schrage, this week took responsibility for the hiring of Definers Public Affairs, a consulting firm and opposition-research firm that Facebook tasked with scrutinizing detractors.
Facebook announced on Tuesday it discovered a political influence campaign likely built to disrupt 2018 midterm elections. Facebook removed 32 pages and fake accounts that engaged in activity surrounding divisive social issues. Some tools used were similar to those used by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency, but the campaign was not definitively connected to Russia.
British authorities announced on Tuesday that Facebook was found to have broken British law by failing to safeguard user data and not properly informing users of Cambridge Analytica’s purposes. The company faces a $660,000 fine from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office. The fine is the first punitive action against Facebook since Cambridge Analytica reports surfaced.
Facebook announced that it will discontinue its ‘trending’ section which launched in 2014 amid the controversial issue of ‘fake news.’ Facebook is exploring new ways to help people stay informed while ensuring they see news from ‘trustworthy and quality sources.’ New features which give prominence to local news sources and live coverage are being explored.
Mark Zuckerberg faced difficult questions from EU political leaders in a hearing on Tuesday for Facebook’s recent privacy mishaps. European lawmakers suggested a split from Facebook and complained that Zuckerberg repeated his previous statements, evading specific questions. Zuckerberg began the meeting by apologizing to the European Parliament for Facebook’s role in the spreading of misinformation.
Despite experiencing a major crisis and investigation into its privacy policies, Facebook’s net profit has reached an all-time high of $4.9 billion. The company’s first quarter saw a 63% increase in profit and 49% increase in revenue resulting from mobile advertising growth. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is ‘off to a strong start in 2018.’