Facebook faces wrath of EU lawmakers working on online content rules – POLITICO
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EU lawmakers want a Facebook whistleblower to come and testify before the bloc’s parliament about revelations of toxic practices on the platform as they work out the fine print on new rules to regulate content in line.
Lawmakers are working on an invitation for Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who was the primary source of a series of reports on the company published by the Wall Street Journal, to present her findings to the European Parliament where lawmakers are working on a flagship product. Content Moderation Act, known as the Digital Services Act.
“The Facebook files – and the revelations the whistleblower presented to us – underline how important it is that we do not let big tech companies self-regulate,” said Danish socialist Christel Schaldemose, the main MEP. behind the digital services law, which spoke to the US whistleblower two weeks before revealing her identity on Sunday.
Internal Facebook documents leaked by Haugen revealed that the social media giant knew about it and was doing very little to fix a torrent of issues coming from its platforms. Documents have revealed the existence of a program offering a free pass to celebrities when they post illegal and harmful content, efforts to optimize the algorithm to broadcast polarizing content, the risks posed to teens as well as victims of human trafficking and political activists.
The tech company, which has 2.9 billion users and is worth $ 1,000 billion, has tried frantically to allay concerns, on the one hand promising that it has “fundamentally changed” to anticipate and mitigate the abuse. on its platform, and on the other hand accusing the Wall Street Journal of inaccurate reporting and misunderstanding the internal document, and Haugen of “misleading” accusations.
Haugen is scheduled to testify before the US Congress on Tuesday and later in the month in the British Parliament. EU lawmakers are discussing a possible invitation and have yet to send one.
The next EU content regulation
Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Parliament worked on rules to force tech companies like Facebook to crack down on illegal content, tackle systemic issues on their platforms such as disinformation, change their content and methods. advertising algorithms and open their data to regulators and researchers.
Now, revelations about Facebook’s inaction to tackle harmful abuse of its platform have given more ammunition to European lawmakers who want to go after big techs like Facebook.
“I am extremely grateful for the courage of the whistleblower who is finally giving us the information we need to legislate effectively.” said Greens law representative Alexandra Geese, who spoke to Haugen last week. “Until now, neither the public nor lawmakers have been able to gain such a deep understanding of the mechanisms that have become far too powerful.”
Her comments were echoed by her fellow co-legislators, liberal MEP Dita CharanzovÃ¡ and conservative MEP Arba Kokalari, who praised the whistleblower’s work.
“It is good that these files are made public so that they can be examined by the public,” Kokalari said.
Geese said Facebook should release all documents, but early revelations would allow EU lawmakers to be more ambitious in the rules they set.
“The documents finally put all the facts on the table for us to pass a stronger digital services law,” she said.
Parliament has planned drastic changes in the way giant social media platforms such as Facebook operate today.
Political parties in the European Parliament such as Geese’s party, the Greens, but also some socialists and liberals have pushed for the ban on targeted advertising and the deactivation by default of algorithms for recommending personalized content on the feed. topicality.
âThe whole business model of profiling is called into question by these revelations,â Geese said.
The digital services law would also allow regulators and researchers to access the data, algorithms of large social media companies and better understand the inner workings and societal impact of companies.
âWe must demand transparency from technology companies and we must allow civil society, lawmakers and academic experts to gain insight into the building blocks of algorithms. This is the only way to have a public debate on the effects of these algorithms, âSchaldemose said.
While Parliament aims to vote on its revision of the text by the end of the year, EU institutions aim to finalize the digital services law by mid-2022.
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