A Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee says Facebook has acted like a ‘digital gangster’.
The comments were made as part of a final report on disinformation and fake news, which has been ongoing for 18 months.
“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 warned.
The report accused Facebook of obstructing its earlier inquiry and failing to tackle attempts by Russia to manipulate voters ahead of elections.
“Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use every day,” warned the committee’s chairman, Damian Collins.
The report also accuses Zuckerberg of contempt for parliament after refusing three demands to give evidence, and warns that British electoral law is vulnerable to interference by hostile foreign actors, including agents of the Russian government.
The DCMS has now called on the British government to establish an independent investigation into foreign influence and disinformation during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 general election.
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said the party had endorsed the findings in the report.
“The era of self-regulation for tech companies must end immediately,” he said. “We need new independent regulation with a tough powers and sanctions regime to curb the worst excesses of surveillance capitalism and the forces trying to use technology to subvert our democracy.
“If one thing is uniting politicians of all colours during this difficult time for our country, it is our determination to bring [Zuckerberg] and his company into line.”
Facebook responded to the report’s findings with agreement that more reform is needed.
“We are open to meaningful regulation and support the committee’s recommendation for electoral law reform,” said Karim Palant, the company’s UK public policy manager.