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Social media firms must do more to prevent their platforms being used to influence the outcome of political elections, in the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, the European Parliament has ruled.
MEPs were asked to vote on what sanctions Facebook should face for allowing London-based data mining firm Cambridge Analytica to sell uncontrolled access to its user data, which allegedly resulted in data being misappropriated to influence the results of elections in the US and the UK.
As a result, MEPS are now calling for Facebook to make “substantial modifications” to its social networking platform to bring its operations into line with EU data protection laws, which prohibit the misuse of social media for electoral fraud.
Members also want Facebook to undergo a “full and independent audit” of its data security and protection procedures, and for the results to be presented to the European Commission and Parliament at a later date.
Claude Moraes, chair of the Civil Liberties Committee and rapporteur, said the proposals are essential to ensure users’ privacy rights are protected, particularly in light of the news of Facebook’s more recent data breach, which was revealed in September 2018.
“This resolution makes clear that we expect measures to be taken to protect citizens’ right to private life, data protection and freedom of expression,” said Moraes. “Improvements have been made since the scandal but, as the Facebook data breach of 50 million accounts showed just last month, these do not go far enough.”
And it not just Facebook that EU lawmakers have in their sights – MEPs are also calling for all social media platforms to do more to prevent their platforms being misused to influence the results of future elections.
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- Facebook’s COO has joined the social network’s CEO in apologising for betraying users’ trust by giving Cambridge Analytica unfettered access to personal data, saying the firm will work with regulators.
- The recent controversy about Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data to, allegedly, influence the 2016 US presidential election and, possibly, the UK EU referendum raises an ethical issue, especially for data scientists newly minted from UK universities.
They want social media sites to take steps to ensure users can differentiate more clearly between paid-for election campaign posts and adverts, and for it to be made more explicitly clear who is funding them.
Social media sites must also do a better job of clamping down on fake accounts and bots spreading misinformation, and put controls in place to prevent users being profiled in order to deduce their political preferences, MEPs said.
They also want all EU institutions, agencies and bodies to have their social media pages verified, and to promise not to use marketing tools that risk compromising citizens’ personal data.
These proposals will go to another parliamentary vote in Strasbourg between 22 and 25 October 2018 for approval.