Are the major social media platforms nurturing malignant and dark forces that aim to disrupt our democracy? Quite possibly, according to the findings of the House of Commons select committee for Culture, Media and Sports in its Interim report, ‘Disinformation and ‘fake news’’.

Take Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, or maybe even your favourite forums, these online platform are free to use, you use them to interact with your friends and maybe do a bit of business, what could possibly go wrong?

Free online platforms make the bulk of their revenue from advertising sales. There is nothing new in that model, think of all the free newspapers in offline circulation. The newly identified trouble is that these platforms are also capable of exploiting you and the data that you supply them in ways that you probably never imagined.

Allegations of illegally data harvesting and exploitation of its results have been made against Facebook, Global Science Research, SCL and Cambridge Analytica by MPs in their Intermin report. They note that the spread of disinformation and fake news may well have created undue influence from political campaigns from the Brexit Vote Leave campaign to the American Elections, and may have affected the regimes of numerous countries.

The perpetrators or disruptors who are circulating misinformation may have different goals. The report notes that the Brexit Vote Leave may have received illegal funding from the US and US data mining companies may have been used to promote various social media disinformation campaigns. I.e. campaigns that were able to fan up fears, e.g.  over immigration or whether EU funding takes money from the NHS. There is also alleged Russian involvement in the US elections and the United Nations has actually named Facebook as being responsible for inciting hatred against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma, through its ‘Free Basics’ service. It provides people free mobile phone access without data charges, but is also responsible for the spread disinformation and propaganda via multiple fake accounts.

MPs conclude their report by making a considerable number of recommendations including:

  • Reform of the laws on political campaigning in the digital age
  • Referrals of specific persona to the National Crime Agency for investigation
  • More powers to the Information Commissioner,
  • Higher fines for regulator breaches,
  • Funding for the policing of the platforms by the platforms
  • More transparency from online platforms.

MPS also recommend better education on this topic in schools.


House of Commons Select Committee interim report: Disinformation and Fake News

Useful links

Social Media: FAQs on how and what they do with your mined data, disinformation & Fake News, being Savvy on the net.