December 28, 2017
Facebook and Twitter threatened with sanctions in UK fake news inquiry
Facebook and Twitter could face sanctions if they continue to stonewall parliament over Russian interference in the EU referendum, the chair of a Commons inquiry has said.
Damian Collins, chair of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee, which is looking into so-called “fake news”, has given the companies until 18 January to correct their failure to hand over information he requested about Russian misinformation campaigns on their platforms.
“There has to be a way of scrutinising the procedures that companies like Facebook put in place to help them identify known sources of disinformation, particularly when it’s politically motivated and coming from another country,” Collins said.
“They need to be able to tell us what they can do about it. And what we need to be able to do is say to the companies: we recognise that you are best placed to monitor what is going on your own site and to get the balance right in taking action against it but also safeguarding the privacy of users.
“But what there has to be then is some mechanism of saying: if you fail to do that, if you ignore requests to act, if you fail to police the site effectively and deal with highly problematic content, then there has to be some sort of sanction against you.”
Collins’s intervention, the first concrete warning that sanctions could follow any failure to provide the information required, is likely to cause concern for the social media firms. Previously he had signalled his dissatisfaction in letters to the two companies without specifying the consequences of noncompliance.
In a letter to Twitter this month, he wrote: “The information you have now shared with us is completely inadequate … It seems odd that so far we have received more information about activities that have taken place on your platform from journalists and academics than from you.”
Collins said his inquiry was looking at the question of what form sanctions could take. “In other countries they’ve taken different positions. Germany has obviously gone furthest down this road.”
In mid-December, the German competition authority issued the country’s latest rebuke of Facebook, accusing the company of violating European data protection principles by merging information gathered through WhatsApp and Instagram with Facebook user accounts.
Collins suggested that one outcome of the inquiry could be social networks being hit where it hurts most: their revenue. “On the advertising side, what’s important is, well, the extent of fake accounts. If you’re selling advertising against those numbers, that cannot be ethical, and clearly that is something the advertising industry should be interested in.”
Collins would not have direct powers to punish Twitter and Facebook if they fail to cooperate more fully, but could ensure bad publicity for both if he continues to summon their representatives to face his committee. Meanwhile, ministers are understood to be concerned by the companies’ attitude and could be sympathetic to any request for action.
Collins’s committee has asked Facebook and Twitter for a broad swath of information about Russian interference in the EU referendum, including details of the accounts and pages operated by Russian misinformation actors. Instead, in early December the two companies handed over a carbon copy of the information they had provided the Electoral Commission in response to a much narrower query about advertising spend from Russia during the six weeks leading up to the vote.
“What I didn’t expect was they would essentially completely ignore our request,” Collins said, describing the companies’ response as “extraordinary”.
“They don’t believe that they have any obligation at all to initiate their own investigation into what may or may not have been happening on the site – to look at the accounts that have been identified by the American authorities and say: OK, are there other accounts that share similar characteristics that could have come from the same source? They’ve not done any of that work at all.”
Advertisement
In the information the companies handed over to the Electoral Commission, they identified small ad spends from previously known Russian actors. Facebook said just $0.97 had been spent on Brexit-related adverts by Russians that were seen by Brits, while Twitter claimed that the only Russian spending it was aware of during the period in question was $1,000 from the broadcaster RT.
The Russian embassy in Britain seized on the initial figures released by Facebook to criticise media focus on misinformation operations. “It’s [the Times columnist Hugo Rifkind] who holds British democracy in contempt by suggesting 52% voters can be bought for £0.73,” the embassy tweeted shortly after the exchange of letters between Facebook, Twitter and Collins.
A few days later, the embassy shared a statement from the Russian foreign affairs ministry: “US & UK financial elites controlling mainstream media are unleashing a campaign to put Facebook, Google, Twitter under strict control alleging they are used by extremists. Russia was targeted by social media fakes many times but it never curbed freedom of speech in internet.” (In fact, Russian authorities have banned thousands of sites since Vladimir Putin’s re-election in 2012, some for promoting “social ills”, others for political dissent.)
In the US, Facebook and Twitter carried out wide-ranging investigations that identified significant interference beyond simple ad spending. Facebook identified 470 accounts and pages run by the Russian Internet Research Agency, a St Petersburg-based “troll army”, while Twitter provided Congress with a list of 2,752 accounts that it believed were linked to the organisation.
“I hope they realise that people’s concerns about this issue aren’t going away,” Collins said. “They have an opportunity to be seen to be proactive. This is taking place in the context of the broader debate of their responsibilities.”
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Elle Fanning To Play Michelle Carter in New Hulu Series | E! News
August 07, 2020
f3amOAcRXfY
Becca Kufrin & Garrett Yrigoyen Split | E! News
August 07, 2020
DqzaM2UJNJ0
"90 Day Fiancé" Star Jorge Nava's Exclusive Post-Prison Interview | E! News
August 07, 2020
_UFHPArA6To
Terry Dubrow reveals how his family supported Max Dubrow after she came out | Page Six News
August 07, 2020
jGFWV9dRA-E
Jason Derulo reacts to Trump’s proposal to ban TikTok | Page Six Celebrity News
August 07, 2020
uZtGjC8pBMU
Maya Vander teases drama on Season 3 of ‘Selling Sunset’ | Page Six Celebrity News
August 06, 2020
uEdNhptqBaE
'A Thousand Cuts' Journalist Maria Ressa on Freedom of the Press
August 07, 2020
FEI1t5k1C4w
Jordan Fisher on 'The Big Ticket' with Marc Malkin
August 07, 2020
1ceuwyhbuwc
Chris Meloni talks 'Maxxx' and His Return to 'Law and Order'
July 29, 2020
ZFTDB-dwyUA
Justin & Hailey Bieber Get Baptized Together | TMZ
August 07, 2020
n3FrYqYlE1w
Jerry O'Connell Says Homeschooling Math Looks Like a 'Hawking Equation' | TMZ
August 07, 2020
DjujtWWuKJ8
Jake Paul FBI Raid Was Not Over Firearms | TMZ
August 07, 2020
GLeSYjA-ijg
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
01
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Roma
01
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Cagliari
01
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Lazio
01
Aug
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Inter Milan
29
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Torino - Roma
29
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Cagliari - Juventus
29
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Sampdoria - AC Milan
28
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Inter Milan - Napoli
26
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester City - Norwich City
26
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Watford
26
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leicester City - Manchester United
26
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Sampdoria
26
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - Wolves
26
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Newcastle United - Liverpool
26
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Crystal Palace - Tottenham Hotspur
26
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Roma - Fiorentina
25
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Sassuolo
25
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Genoa - Inter Milan
24
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Atalanta
23
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Udinese - Juventus
22
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Chelsea
22
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - West Ham United
22
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Inter Milan - Fiorentina
22
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Spal - Roma
22
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Parma - Napoli
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
-g9Qziqbif8 0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k tudKp5Vhs3k iwWHibhssSo kQr0XHPbICM
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.