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Disinformation and 'fake news': commentary on the DCMS Committee report

Posted on 19 February 2019

Disinformation and 'fake news': commentary on the DCMS Committee report

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published an inquiry into fake news, focusing on the business practices of Facebook before and after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Commenting on the report's recommendations, Mishcon de Reya's Head of Reputation Protection Emma Woollcott said:

"With great power comes great responsibility, and this report may well herald a significant shift in the relationship between tech companies and social media users. Conflicting laws and regulations around issues such as data privacy, fake news and electoral campaigning make the international regulation of social media extremely challenging. A compulsory code of ethics should pave the way for the greater protection of individuals' rights, and greater transparency around what we can expect from Facebook when challenging false and damaging content online."

Mishcon de Reya Data Protection Advisor Jon Baines said:

"The report points to potential data protection and competition law infringements which could result in mass regulatory complaints and legal claims."

Mishcon de Reya Competition Partner Rob Murray added:

"The Select Committee's recommendation of a Competition and Markets (CMA) Investigation into Facebook's practices in the context of the UK online advertising market, and for an independent regulator to oversee a Code of Conduct on ethics, comes hot on the heels of the Cairncross Report, which also called for a Regulator and for a Code to establish fair standard contractual terms and for a CMA inquiry in similar terms. The Government has now followed up with a letter to the CMA requesting such an investigation. These moves are to be welcomed as we wait to see what the Furman Report for the Treasury concludes on the possible harms of the internet platform to consumers, the economy and the structure of competition in relevant markets.

"These reports signal high levels of scrutiny in an industry that has been able to thrive, largely unregulated, for a significant period of time. When combined with similar investigations and cases in other countries, the collective output is likely to be the greatest driver for meaningful change that we have seen to date."

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