back to article UK 'fake news' inquiry calls for end to tech middleman excuses, election law overhaul

British lawmakers have been told to create tougher rules for social media giants claiming to be neutral platforms, establish a code of ethics for tech firms, and plump up the UK's self-styled "data sheriff"*. Eighteen months into an epic inquiry that was thrust into the spotlight after the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting …

  1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Yup.

    Agree. I still don't get why businesses such as Facebook and Google can be deemed exempt from responsibility as to what content gets posted on it and YouTube etc. Same thing for eBay and such like.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yup.

      Agreed, and all pubs should be responsible if someone drunkely spouts bullshit to you at the bar. And the council if someone were to say something untoward on the street.

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: Yup.

        Does that apply to the likes of the reg comments then? I came here for the articles and stayed for the insults.....

      2. EnviableOne Bronze badge

        Re: Yup.

        A pub/bar has the right to eject and refuse service to said drunk, and if it was a regular occurance would be expected to employ door staff and in some cities contribute to policing costs.

        Its not unreasonable for FB, GG et al. to refuse service (delete posts,) eject (delete and ban users,) or employ door staff (moderators,) and even contribute to policing (taxes and levies) to deal with the anti-social behaviour of their memebers.

        the council does not own the street, or have any controll over who uses i, so bad metaphor there

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yup.

        This analogy only works if you passed the message to the landlord to pass on. And if the landlord tried to make a profit from the contents of the message; either by selling the message or using the content of the message to try selling you and the recipient stuff.

      4. Siberian Hamster

        Re: Yup.

        Actually more akin to if they have a noticeboard for people to pin business cards and the like to.

        You wouldn't expect them to check that every type of 'Joe Bloggs roofing contractors, we're the best in the business' is backed up with actual facts but you would expect them to remove something such as 'The guy just moved into no.56 Somesuch Street is a just released paedo' .

      5. DrStrangeLug

        There's a difference

        No, the pub is not responsible if some idiot shouts bullshit towards you at the bar.

        However if the idiot records it and pays the pub money to display it on their screens then they are responsible.

        1. Tom Paine Silver badge

          Re: There's a difference

          A pub that gets repeated police callouts to fights will lose it's license. (Round these parts anyway.)

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Yup.

      well, I'm of the position that people should be able to say whatever they want, as long as its not blatantly libelous and/or slanderous, or in any other way illegal [like advocating riots or other crimes]. But the grips on that kind of thing are rather loose, and so you'll see occasional things that might offend you. Oh well. Grow a thicker skin, I say.

      The thing about Fa[e]ceB[ook,@#$%] being as large as it is, accused of filtering news in a way that favors their own interests [whatever that might be], is what's apparently at question here. I say 'no filtering' and leave the liability with the individual posters. That's the simplest way to avoid quelling speech while simultaneously giving FB [and others] the means by which they can do T.O.S. bans as necessary. If that means banning every conservative or right-winger off of their network, I say "their loss of revenue". I certainly don't need FB for _MY_ news, nor google for my searches. Or whatever.

      But you know, business is business, and politics is politics. The smart business owner will realize this and NOT "play politics". Everyone's money is the SAME color. Welcome, valued customer!

      1. Keef

        Re: Yup.

        'well, I'm of the position that people should be able to say whatever they want, as long as its not blatantly libelous and/or slanderous'

        Maybe look up the difference between libel and slander bb, It is impossible to say anything libellous.

        As an aside, given your propensity for CAPS shouldn't you at least be Bombastic Bob?

        I know appropriate capitalisation might not be your thing, and changing your name would lose you all those downvotes you must be so proud of.

        UK English spelling is libellous, not libelous, so excuse the different spelling between the quote and my contribution

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @keef

          This isn't the spelling/grammar nazi outing.

          I for one had zero problems reading or understanding Bob's points.

          In future you might consider not clicking submit until your post contains something other than unrelated and incorrect sniping.

          Personally I never found character case to make any difference to readability, perhaps because when I started programming CAPS was required for all programming language keywords. Whilst I understand that some people born after 198x insist that CAPS only ever indicates shouting, the convention outside of the internet is merely to add emphasis, with any emotion indicated explicitly as required.

          As an aside, I have often noticed that comprehension failure and screams of "CAPS" are commonly found together, often alongside the insane belief that CAPS are somehow painful to read. These unfortunates will then bluster, at length, that this convention existed before and independantly of the "CAPSLOCK key should be removed from keyboards" rant that most sane people either laughed at or ignored completely.

      2. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Yup.

        " say 'no filtering' and leave the liability with the individual posters. That's the simplest way to avoid quelling speech while simultaneously giving FB [and others] the means by which they can do T.O.S. bans as necessary. "

        Except that FB don't want 'no filtering', they want the ability to filter and reorder posts as necessary to generate the maximum number of clicks and shares

      3. Bernard M. Orwell

        Re: Yup.

        "I certainly don't need FB for _MY_ news, nor google for my searches. Or whatever."

        Nah, you've got Fox to tell you all you need to know, eh?

    4. Mike Ozanne

      Re: Yup.

      Common Carrier protection is the same thing that absolves the Post Office from being responsible for the contents of letters or the phone company for the contents of a phone conversation.

    5. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Yup.

      "I still don't get why businesses such as Facebook and Google can be deemed exempt from responsibility as to what content gets posted on it "

      It's really simple and also explained in the article as being ALREADY part of UK legislation. If there is any sort of promotion, prioritisation or any other type of intervention on the part of the 'platform' with regard to postings and visibility thereof, then it no longer has the protections of 'just being a platform'. Once you start to pick and choose which posts to show (which FB for example clearly does) then you no longer have the excuse that you don't know about the content. Because clearly the promotion is made based on content - what is going to generate most comment / shares.

      FB, Google et al can't have it both ways. They claim to their advertisers (their REAL clients) that they can manage giant volumes of data in enough detail to microtarget users, and in the same breath they claim to regulators that there's too much data for them to oversee.

  2. adnim Silver badge

    'Fake news'

    Prior to the rise of the Internet, we used to call this lies. Or when published a spoof newspaper, a joke.

    If published/broadcast on April 1st an April fools joke.

    If it's fake, believable and intended to deceive or misguide I call it deception.

    If it's fake, believable and intended to slur or defame a person then it's probably libel.

    Why not treat it a such?

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: 'Fake news'

      The Labour party recently held a workshop teaching its MPs to lie in order to smear opponents.

      When Her Majesties Loyal Opposition behaves like that, what's the point even trying to get a handle on the problem?

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: 'Fake news'

        >>The Labour party recently held a workshop teaching its MPs to lie in order to smear opponents.<<

        Three thoughs crossed my mind;

        Who leaked this information? ...All the best schools teach honesty... and That's what happens when safe seats (& quangos etc.) are handed to friends & the children of party members. In the egalitarian past the really clever Sh**s who could 'misinform' naturally would rise to a position of power.

        Is it time for propaganda & BS phraseology spotting lessons in school? it would work well with advertising copy as well.

        Assume any politician talking is lying until proven otherwise by independant fact checking.

        I hold ALL politicos equal in this regard.

        1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: 'Fake news'

          A Labour MP leaked it.

          I can't find the article unfortunately, I think it was either in The Times or The Sunday Times.

          1. AdamWill

            Re: 'Fake news'

            "A Labour MP leaked it.

            I can't find the article unfortunately, I think it was either in The Times or The Sunday Times."

            So...your response to an article about trying to come to terms with fake news is to:

            1. Make a wild accusation ("Labour teaches its MPs to lie") and say this means it's pointless to even try

            2. When challenged, stand by the accusation but say that you can't actually find any evidence for it anywhere?

            I've just got to go call the Acme Irony Meter Service Department, cos you just broke mine.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: 'Fake news'

              "but say that you can't actually find any evidence for it anywhere?"

              In any case anything owned by Rupert Murdoch is likely to lie its head off if it suits the agenda. Hillsborough anybody?

            2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

              Re: 'Fake news'

              Found it.

              https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/labour-holds-awayday-on-how-to-smear-rivals-65pt3qbng

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: 'Fake news'

                Yes, a story without a single name or verifiable source in a paper owned by Rupert Murdoch and which has appeared nowhere else. I call this one "Fake news".

                1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

                  Re: 'Fake news'

                  Don't like the message? Blame the messenger.

                  1. Red Bren

                    Re: 'Fake news'

                    @disgustedoftunbridgewells

                    "Don't like the message? Blame the messenger."

                    I think you've missed the point. When the messenger is motivated to choose what message to convey, they are no longer just a messenger, and are quite rightly in the firing line for some blame.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 'Fake news'

          A third of my English course tenth grade high school did exactly that, teach critical thinking. Everything from spotting indicator words, types of and recognition of the common fallacies, the usual. I've no idea if they even bother these days. Hell, I bet they don't teach kids this as it would prevent manipulation of them in the future towards whatever causes are du jour.

          I happened to select philosophy as one of my electives that year and had great fun on the English side as my philosophy teacher through in a unit on logic including predicate calculus. Very nice tools to line up targets to demolish academic, or media for that matter, arguments. All my notes after that were in this format. Good fun, especially for an academic at heart.

          1. meraesg

            Re: 'Fake news'

            Could you name the tools you mention or cite some references to explore further.

            Thanks.

      2. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: 'Fake news'

        The Labour party recently held a workshop teaching its MPs to lie in order to smear opponents.

        Do any Politicians require practice - it is not as though they were exactly Zoons (ref Pterry for anyone urious)

      3. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: 'Fake news'

        The Labour party recently held a workshop teaching its MPs to lie in order to smear opponents.

        Naughty them.....

        Quite frankly the ship sailed on that one years ago - I'm not even sure it started merely with Maggie and her 'Spindoctors'.

        The only way to fix the problem from the source would be a criminal offence against reporting untruth, but applying it to newspapers and news publishing concerns (including partisan info sites, advertising and politicians only at first would probably sort 90% of the problem within a year.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: 'Fake news'

          Naughty them.....

          To be fair the opponents they were lying to were leaders of their own party

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: 'Fake news'

          "but applying it to newspapers and news publishing concerns"

          Who simply call it an opinion piece instead of news and carry on as usual.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 'Fake news'

            The problem with "fake news" is that it is okay for the estabilishment to lie but when the public who mostly have little reprutation (and would normally be taken with a pinch of salt) do then suddenly this is a crime?

            My thinking is that since the official voice i.e. BBC etc are no longer having the old control over public opinion, they want that control back, with this law asking for obvious censorship.

            When the state doesn't want to listen to the general public then it is proof that they are both isolated and acting without regard for their voters desires, when they make a law to curb the vox populi then clearly they like things as they are.

            I am all for controlling the spread of lies in "official" publications but people should be allowed to think and say what they like so longer as it hurts no other private person.

            Polititians like other media whores are always open season, they chose to step into the limelight and so should be taking the good with the bad with what grace they can find.

      4. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: 'Fake news'

        "The Labour party recently held a workshop teaching its MPs to lie in order to smear opponents."

        In the USA this is called 'politics as usual'. it's most common every other October. Surprise! I think it's been this way since the beginning. Extra points for mentioning "for the children" (see icon).

        (On occasion I've gone with the side that's the least irritating with the negative ads)

      5. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: 'Fake news'

        The Labour party recently held a workshop teaching its MPs to lie in order to smear opponents.

        I thought this was standard accepted practice for all politicians?

        Hence "Spin Doctor" is a valid respected career choice and, inexplicably , not a criminal offence.

    2. Herring`

      Re: 'Fake news'

      "If it's fake, believable and intended to slur or defame a person then it's probably libel."

      Ah, but libeling who? I recall a headline in a certain popular newspaper on "4,000 foreign murderers and rapists in the UK". (Reading down to paragraph 94, it was 4,000 foreign nationals who had committed an offence, which might include rape or murderer). Who sues in this instance? Press standards organisation no good as the "affected party" can't submit a complaint.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: 'Fake news'

        A newspaper today reported that Fracking is divisive, its evidence was the protest camps.

        It didn't point out that the protesters are paid by a wind farm company owner.

        That's lying by omission in order to further their campaign, but cannot be complained about.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: 'Fake news'

          A newspaper today reported that Fracking is divisive... It didn't point out that the protesters are paid by a wind farm company owner.

          Then it presumably divides wind farm and oil companies - perfectly fair and balanced

      2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: 'Fake news'

        I recall a headline in a certain popular newspaper on "4,000 foreign murderers and rapists in the UK"

        I recall front page headlines and articles labelling 16 million people as traitors, saboteurs, and enemies of the people, simply for having an opinion they didn't find acceptable.

    3. AdamWill

      Re: 'Fake news'

      "If it's fake, believable and intended to deceive or misguide I call it deception.

      ...

      Why not treat it a such?"

      Given that 'deception' isn't a criminal offence...what would "treating it as such" entail exactly?

    4. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: 'Fake news'

      >Why not treat it a such?

      Shock horror! People on the internet don't always tell the truth!

      From what I can tell it is basically FB's self-promotion. "Look at us, we can fix elections. Sorry about the last one, we'll try to make sure the other party wins next time."

      El Reg's own look at the "Russian meddling" showed it to be quite inconsequential.

      The looks more like a power-grap by politicians rather than anything which could ever hope to be either desirable or workable.

    5. FlamingDeath Bronze badge

      Re: 'Fake news'

      News, fake or not, is basically just PR

  3. }{amis}{ Silver badge
    Flame

    The Only Argument.....

    The Only Argument I can field against regulation of the internet giants is the fetid brew of incompetence, greed and corruption that make up a government does not bode well for the definition of truth.

    The internet in my eyes is like a funhouse mirror reflection of humanity if you don't like what you see you should to first look to the source of the image before contemplating breaking the mirror to make it flatter.

    Even so, the one thing this report does get right is the need for a new type of legal definition of a media organisation somewhere closer to the regs that bind the news, and a long way from the current wild west that the internet giants so happily occupy.

    History tells us over and over that whenever a niche appears with the potential for much money and little regulation appears it will become occupied by scumbags F.B. and co are just the latest iterations of this.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beware ...

    the underlying motive in this arena is the dismay of the existing media and it's whore politicians that there are people they can't punt their "message" to (kids that don't read newspapers any more) coupled with the easy access to people and organisations that hold the old guard to account.

    Remember, this shower of shits have already suggested an offence of "repeated viewing of extremist material" (definition of "extremist to remain conveniently loose and one-size-fits-up-all).

    I can easily envisage an offence of "viewing an unapproved news site" being created. After all, it's for our own good.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Beware ...

      I have no idea why repeated viewing of terrorist material should be illegal, yet Facebook and YouTube can keep it up there indefinitely.

      The only reasons that come to mind are a) MPs have been lobbied by Google, Facebook, b) civil servants don't know how to draft the laws, or c) the data will be used to compile watchlists.

      a) requires a less corrupt democratic system, b) PPE and classics graduates have no idea about anything technical, and in this age this is unworkable and they must get outside expertise in, or c) that doesn't work for preventing radicalisation, people get radicalised anyway, there are too many to keep tabs on, the material must simply get taken down.

      1. Red Bren

        Re: Beware ...

        Perhaps PPE graduates should be barred from public office, unless they also possess a STEM degree? You can still study PPE if it's of esoteric interest to you, not because it's the qualification you need if you want a career as a politician. Indeed, ther shouldn't even be such a things as a "career as a politician"

  5. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Transparent solution.

    Give the ICO auditing powers along the lines of inland revenue and in addition to x% turnover fines, prison time should be on the list of available sanctions.

    Companies dealing in user data as a commodity;

    (1) Join a special GDPR register with active ICO oversight.

    (2) Notify users every time any of their info is used for marketing 'research'.

    (3) Give users a prominent link to see their own data set by platform.

    We know most users don't give a monkeys cuss about their data because they can't comprehend the power of analytics but at least they'll not be in the dark about the cost of free services.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why are people getting their news from from Social Media?

    That seems to the be the real problem. A re-education program how to obtain news is in order.

    1. jaywin

      Re: Why are people getting their news from from Social Media?

      Because it tells them the "news" they want to hear.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why are people getting their news from from Social Media?

        Critical thinking when reading the news is something sadly missing in the UK.

        Here's a tip, if you know a source of news that you trust, you've fallen victim to fake news. Everyone is biased and news sources are written by people. Ideally we need to embrace fake news as a reminder not to trust any news outlet too much.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Why are people getting their news from from Social Media?

          if you know a source of news that you trust, you've fallen victim to fake news

          I rely on el'reg, newsthump and the IEEE Journal - fair and balanced trustworthy sources

          1. DropBear Silver badge
            WTF?

            Re: Why are people getting their news from from Social Media?

            "I rely on el'reg [...] fair and balanced "

            You forgot the joke icon. And He Who Must Not Be Named unless you want to chance your comment deleted "by you ('its author')" is merely the most well known (and least subtle) but by no means the only example.

      2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        IT Angle

        Re: Why are people getting their news from from Social Media?

        Quote :

        Because it tells them the "news" they want to hear.

        Unlike the mail and express and torygraph which tell people the news the tories want them to know (and a dose of 2 minute "hate the socialist" too )

        And then news like "Charline married Damien in eastenderstreet last night " along with "Chelsea beat Liverpool" will keep about 60% of the population happy.....

        1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: Why are people getting their news from from Social Media?

          "Socialism is bad" isn't opinion, it's proven fact.

          Neither that nor "the sky is blue" requires two sides to the argument.

          1. Mike Ozanne

            Re: Why are people getting their news from from Social Media?

            Advocatis Diabolo

            ""Socialism is bad" isn't opinion, it's proven fact."

            Define "Bad"

            Define "Socialism"

            What evidence do you regard as "proof"

            The Scandinavians think they are "socialists" yet appear to have an acceptable degree of economic success, personal happiness and freedom. Are these things "bad" or can yo "prove" that they aren't "socialist"

            "the sky is blue"

            Define "sky"

            Define "blue"

            Doesn't the "sky" change colour at night "blackest night£ and all that ergo your statement is wrong about half the time....

            Yesterday in southern England the "sky" was a distinctly depressing grey.. so you are feeding me "fake News" aren't you?

            :P :)

            There are very few completely uni-lateral arguments that involve beliefs or perceptions.

            1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

              Re: Why are people getting their news from from Social Media?

              The Scandinavians don't think they are socialists. The Scandinavians are, and think they are, social democrats.

              The idea that they are socialists is a lie made by socialists to make socialism seem like something other than an economic suicide pact.

              1. Mike Ozanne

                Re: Why are people getting their news from from Social Media?

                "The Scandinavians are, and think they are, social democrats.

                The idea that they are socialists is a lie made by socialists to make socialism seem like something other than an economic suicide pact."

                /AD

                Bernis Sanders thinks they are socialists and doesn't he know more about politics and,well, socialism than you do? He said:

                “In terms of socialism, I think there is a lot to be learned from Scandinavia and from some of the work, very good work that people have done in Europe. In countries like Finland, Norway, Denmark, poverty has almost been eliminated. All people have health care as a right of citizenship. College education is available to all people, regardless of income, virtually free. I have been very aggressive in trying to move to sustainable energy. They have a lot of political participation, high voter turnouts. I think there is a lot to be learned from countries that have created more egalitarian societies than has the United States of America.” (Interview Democracy Now , November 2006)

                Aren't you trying to feed me "Fake News" about the Nordic region...?

                AD/

                What "socialism "is is subject to a great deal of personal interpretation, as are the assesment criteria over whether a particular area is "socialist" What you mean is that In Your Opinion "Socialism" as you understand it is a misguided and pernicious system that increases human misery. I happen to agree with that opinion but it is not an inarguable precept.

                Unfortunately "fake News" boils down to "we want to suppress opinions we disagree with" or for political parties and media orgs "we want to limit information and opinion access to only those sources we control".

                1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                  Re: Why are people getting their news from from Social Media?

                  Simple really: Socialism is where the Police, Fire service, roads, schools are free and there is support by the state for the poor and old.

                  Communism is where the Police, Fire service, roads, schools and health care are free and there is support by the state for the poor and old

                  1. codejunky Silver badge

                    Re: Why are people getting their news from from Social Media?

                    @ Yet Another Anonymous coward

                    "Simple really: Socialism is where the Police, Fire service, roads, schools are free and there is support by the state for the poor and old.

                    Communism is where the Police, Fire service, roads, schools and health care are free and there is support by the state for the poor and old"

                    Kinda but that makes it sound appealing. The important part being that the only surviving socialist state in this world is N.Korea and that is of course with aid from the rest of the world. No other socialist country has survived although Venezuela gave it a go, but the same outcome prevailed.

                    Amazingly some people still come back to wanting to try it. Usually after those who have experience of it have died out.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "the sky is blue"

            The sky is violet, it's just too bright for your eyes to see clearly.

            Look at it when it's getting dark and you'll see the real colour.

  7. Harry Stottle

    *Cough* Accountability Theatre (again)

    Governments only really have one tool in their box (that they can understand well enough to deploy) and that is the hammer of Coercion. Naturally every problem they are confronted with becomes a nail.

    And, in the context of Fake News and Social Media, that approach clearly and verifiably works. The Chinese don't have much of a problem with Fake News on Weibo. Better still they don't even have the problem of Real News that might be embarrassing to the government.

    That's the kind of WinWin scenario that's bound to appeal to authoritarians around the planet, including, obviously, our own authoritarians in Parliament (not just Government).

    The effective strategy for dealing with the problem is a minor variant on the strategy for dealing with Accountability Theatre. It wouldn't "prevent" Fake News (which is the authoritarian solution) so much as expose it and leave it dangling in the wind when set alongside Real News stories with verifiable sources and audit trails. And, of course, it would make much more difficult the suppression of Real News.

    So don't expect to see Governments embracing this approach any time soon. But there's nothing to stop the "honest" media treading that path. It's in their interests more than most

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: *Cough* Accountability Theatre (again)

      The Chinese don't have much of a problem with Fake News on Weibo

      I don't know about that, to use the nail analogy, 'they merely have more hammers'.

      They'll be on newspeak soon, if not already. They've already had to ban 'Winnie the Pooh' references as the population uses it's imagination to get round bans on topics of discussion.

      There'll not be that many words soon, but on the other hand the population are getting it's imagination and creativity honed sharper and sharper.

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Chickens coming home to roost.

    I've commented here a couple of times that Zuk could come to regret it if he needs to lobby HMG and his lobbyists get treated with the same disdain as he treated Parliament. This could well be such an occasion. The CA affair has given MPs motivation enough. Zuk's behaviour will have compounded that.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Chickens coming home to roost.

      Surely somebody with this much power over the voting habits of the UK electorate should be treated with the same respect and hands-off regulation as Murdoch or Maxwell ?

  9. Daedalus Silver badge

    A Very British Problem

    Demands for transparency when most institutions preach more than they practise. (UK spelling and damn the spell checker)

    Demands for honesty and clarity in a society where most of the better off prefer to run and hide.

    Demands for control in a society that pays lip service to freedom.

    No such problems exist in Europe, with its traditions of authoritarianism.

    Maybe this is just MP's venting. They like to do that.

  10. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Easy solution ...

    Don't allow anyone who has a social media account to vote. QED.

    1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

      Re: Easy solution ...

      So only reactionaries allowed to vote? That should work well.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Easy solution ...

        No, only the people who believe that voting is more important that Twitter or Facebook would get to vote. Which I submit would be a *good* thing.

  11. scrubber
    Facepalm

    "Social media firms neither publisher nor platform, we need new term"

    Advertisers?

    But that would place them under the auspices of the ASA, the most toothless regulator in the world.

  12. Mephistro Silver badge

    "...selling lookalike political audiences to advertisers during the regulated period [...] users should be given a way to opt out of being included in such groups."

    In my opinion, it should be exclusively "opt in". Social media firms could still milk the -too high- percentage of their users who love to be mislead and misinformed! 8^(

    As other fellow commentards have already pointed out, a better education with special emphasis in critical thinking and a healthy degree of distrust of media sources and social media would get rid of most of these issues. Sadly, it'll probably never happen, as governments want their subjects docile. 8^(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As other fellow commentards have already pointed out, a better education with special emphasis in critical thinking and a healthy degree of distrust of media sources and social media would get rid of most of these issues.

      I think you'll find that a very large selection of the population, and I would guess a sizeable majority don't trust any media sources much (or government). However, rather than this being due to devious manipulation on Facebook by the FSB, it is years of hard, dishonest work by British politicians, civil servants, papers, the BBC, and commercial broadcasters that have achieved this. Consider the coverage of Hillsborough, Saville, Gulf War WMD, the Cliff Richard raid, the fake Sheikh, phone hacking, and many, many others. Its interesting to note that social media did not play any part in those various news scandals, even the most recent ones. But hey, let's focus on Facebook! I'd agree Zuck is almost as dislikeable as Bashir Assad, and that the FB business model is exploitative. But how's Zuck different to that ghastly old turd who owned the News of the World, and still dominates published media? I'd fully expect Turdoch to be lobbying for more regulation of social media.

      It's very easy to point to the ample cruft, lies, and distortions on social media and tabloid web sites, and complain that the peasants are being misled (usually it seems because the peasants don't agree on some unrelated issue with the person complaining). This seems to be driven by ideas that there exists a vast class of peasants, a lower life form, unable to judge anything for themselves, and who if properly educated would agree with views of their self-judged betters, busy looking down on them.

  13. Geoffrey W Silver badge

    Surely the best solution to people being lied to is to educate them to recognise the lies. Teach people, that is, children, to think about everything that someone tells them, including what teachers say. Teach them to more easily recognise lies or at the very least to suspect them and to never believe anything.

    Of course, that would mean more money for education, which is simply not possible in a time of austerity [/S], plus it has the drawback of teaching children not to believe the establishments own lies. So it looks like lies all round then : unfettered lies, or establishment lies : and no intellectual tools to resist them. Take your pick.

    1. MrReal Bronze badge

      "Surely the best solution to people being lied to is to educate them to recognise the lies."

      There are chemical weapons in Douma, we need to bomb Syria.

      Russia poisoned the Skripals.

      Seriously, do think the government want's a nation of people able to spot lies??

      The biggest lies come from government. Look at mossad's 9/11 (Ref. Christopher Bollyn's videos) - blamed on Saudis so we attack Afghanistan (a war still continuing today), then we attack Iraq for their WMDs Blair and Straw lied about . Then we attack Syria and sanction Iran - countries who have been fighting ISIS for 5+ years and when they clear their land and all the remaining ISIS people are in US/Israeli occupied land we bomb them for fake news about chemical weapons plants that the OPCW already told us were not there and failed to find any trace of later.

      Lies are the way our government works, they will NEVER educate people to spot them.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just Follow The Money?

    For example, what's the story behind the alleged Tim Worstall instigated fundraiser for one of the guilty parties in the Vote.Leave/Be.Leave/Aggregate IQ scandal?

    Hey, El Reg journalists?

  15. Neoc

    No such animal

    "...social media giants claiming to be neutral platforms..."

    None of those Social Media Giants are neutral platforms anymore. They stopped being "neutral" once they implemented algorithms which would supposedly present me with the news I am interested in (how? "trade secret", so we are told. So we only have their words that it's what *we* want to see as opposed to what they've been paid for us to see).

    Once *their* algorithm "chooses" what I see, they no longer are "neutral" - they've meddle with my newsfeed.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: No such animal

      "Once *their* algorithm "chooses" what I see, they no longer are "neutral" - they've meddle with my newsfeed."

      Not so. Specifically, not necessarily. There are huge qualitative differences between situations where "their algorithm" "chooses" to show you something a) because it's part of $entity's fiendish agenda du jour, or b) because it's most similar to other things you liked in the past or c) because its category isn't unchecked in you profile preferences. The one doing the meddling with your newsfeed is them for "a" but for "b" and "c" it's YOU (assuming it's made crystal clear for "b" that this is happening, preferably with an option to switch it off if you wish, preferably as an opt-in in the first place).

      There's a wide range of greys on that scale, depending on exactly where the algorithm's criteria are coming from, and whether they're influenced by something you do, your social contacts do, thinkfluencers at the provider of the service do, or activists out to sway your judgement do - and as you may have noticed, two and four can quite possibly be inseparable in outcome if not in intent.

      It is NOT the provider's job to do the hard thinking for you. Their job is only to offer you adequate controls allowing you to make your own choices and be transparent enough about what drives the clockwork to let you do that somewhat effectively. You don't need to know the complete blueprint to do that, only which input levers are engaged. Who do you trust and why is up to you, and unless your provider explicitly declares itself a full-on bona fide news agency, scrubbing the next "OMG $candidate did $vile_thing" of questionable truthfulness from your feed is not their job - it's YOURS.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No such animal

      They stopped being "neutral" once they implemented algorithms which would supposedly present me with the news I am interested in

      Come off it, they never were neutral. Given the vast amount of cack being posted to social media (even at the start), no individual would have been able to have dealt with anything other than a trivially tiny subset, and I'd suggest that any reasonable person would realise that. And social media and search has never been about manual editorial control, so it was obvious then that anything served to a user was selected by an algo.

      Nothing has changed other than that the optimisation has improved (to increase company revenues, that is), and third parties now seek to use social media to "place" stories or products, either through a commercial arrangement, or attempting to reverse engineer sufficient of the placement algo's logic. Hardly much different to how companies and influence-seekers interract with the old printed press.

      So I suppose my response is Yes, social media are not neutral. What of it? Can you give me an example of a neutral, enduring, successful news or social media service, because I can't think of anything that qualifies.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Social media firms neither publisher nor platform

    It depends on the lawsuit:

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jul/02/facebook-mark-zuckerberg-platform-publisher-lawsuit

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well the Government are now taliking about banning Candidates

    who have the temerity to publically disagree with them.

    “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.“

    John Milton, Areopagitica, 1644.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well the Government are now taliking about banning Candidates

      They can't have people pointing out things like the medical benefits of cannabis or someone might wonder why it's still illegal and question if the rise in Spice problems are a politican's fault for ignoring scientific evidence with the cannabis classification.

      It's far better call such government critics trolls or fake news, and make sure these rebels never get into a position of power..

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Well the Government are now taliking about banning Candidates

      Well the Government are now taliking [sic] about banning Candidates

      Citation needed

  18. Wolfclaw

    "consider the ethics of Facebook or other relevant social media companies", what is there to cosnider, they don't have any ethics, it's all about making money, influencing those that have or about to have power, do what is in their best interests.

  19. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Moral panic the worst in history...

    Geroge Soros and Rupert Murdock can pump hundreds of millions of pounds into the country to spread their agendas, and the Americans too...but this much smaller amount of money is from Russians! Oh dear! Change the laws in a panic!

    How much do we spend abroad bombing other countries into democracy? Would you rather have freedom bombs or adverts?

    Child catcher icon for obvs...

  20. Mike Ozanne

    So yet another incentive for Facebook to remove any servers (and the related jobs and economic activity) from UK jurisdiction.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is just a way for Politicians to get in on the action and regulate wrong-think, its overreach and they need to stay away from it. The only thing they should enforce is everyone gets to say what they want except if it insights violence. In other words allowing freedom of speech.

  22. pig

    Clinton Win = Good democracy.

    Trump Win = Must have been fraud - from RUSSIA!

    Remain Win = Good Democracy

    Leave Win = Must have been fraud - from RUSSIA!

    And so on.

    It runs the risk of people judging that 'fake news' is simply anything the cognoscenti of the current zeitgeist dislike or disagree with.

    Also, I've never voted a certain way due to fake news. And neither has anyone I have discussed it with.

    Ask a room full of people and they will tell you the same.

    Ask a stadium full and again they will all say they haven't.

    Yet look at the news and you'd be forgiven for thinking the winner of the election was merely at Russia's whim. I think the power of 'fake news' is massively overstated and being used for political purposes be people we should be very afraid of this.

    Any censorship that comes from this is a massive step back, not forward.

  23. MrReal Bronze badge

    "This should include a Code of Ethics to establish "what is and what is not acceptable by users on social media", which should be "the backbone" of their development work."

    George Orwell's Animal farm was not supposed to be a guide.

    We were told the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were fake.

    Looks like our leaders are following both. Facebook dished out thousands of bans when people merely observed that the Pulse nightclub victims were being carried back toward the club in the videos of the aftermath (you can see the Pulse's sign, and that there were no ambulances or medical staff, just lines of police cars).

    I suppose they are now banning people confused by novichok, the super deadly gel-smeared-on-doorknobs - super deadly but not usually fatal, has a 4 hour delay in effect for people with a Skrip in the surname and is at the same time a liquid in a bottle missed by thousands of britain's finest forensic police that acts instantly too. Also anyone who survives is never seen again, weird huh?

    I miss the old days like the Gulf of Tonkin and the moon stories - at least they tried to make it look convincing. Today these fake narratives are so bad they need to censor all discussion of them.

  24. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    People talking, discussing, and worst of all freely! Well surely this is the moment for the gov to step in and decide what is real and fake.

    Seriously what is wrong with these people to think such an authoritarian approach is a good thing? Have they no clue?

  25. DukeboxDurie

    And yet any time anyone tries to suggest controlling the platforms Google backed orgs like EFF, OpenRightsGroup, Fight For Future all come out of the woodwork telling us it'll "Break The internet".

    Load of tosh, we need these platforms and google regulated, they are a law unto themselves.

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