UK Lawmaker Demands Answers From Facebook on Political Ads and Messaging Encryption

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LONDON – A senior UK lawmaker wrote to Facebook on Tuesday. Conservative MP Damian Collins raised concerns about its change in policy around political adverts. Additionally, he queried the company’s planned merger of Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

FTC Facebook privacy investigation

Concerns Over Facebook Political Advertising Policy

Mr. Collins chairs the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. It comprises of MPs from across the different parties. He wrote to Facebook’s Vice President for Global Affairs and Communications Sir Nick Clegg. It followed Facebook’s change to its political advertising policy. The rules now only ban “claims debunked by third-party fake checkers, or, in certain circumstances claims debunked by organizations with particular expertise.”

In the letter, Mr. Collins asked why Facebook had decided on that change “given the heavy constraint this will place on Facebook’s ability to combat online disinformation in the run-up to elections around the world and a possible UK general election in particular?” Mr. Collins also noted the emphasis put on third-part fact-checkers in this policy. He asked if the social media giant had plans “to formalize a working relationship with third-party fact-checkers in the long-term.”

Merged Messaging Service Issues

On the proposed merger of messaging services, Mr. Collins said he could not understand the “the consumer argument for expanded use of encryption” as WhatsApp and other services are available. He wanted to know why WhatsApp could not “remain the only end-to-end encrypted service” run by Facebook. He raised security concerns and asked what the Facebook Safety Team’s opinion on the merger was. Furthermore, the MP wanted to know what level of encryption would be used. He asked if any data from the merged service could be used for advertising.

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wab95

Charlotte: Some of Mr Collins’ questions are the right ones and others not so much. FB’s decision to not fact check political advertisements provides an openly exploitable vulnerability in their so-called efforts to combat political disinformation to the detriment of free and fair elections. FB remains a de facto asset and information arm of hostile actors intent of waging asymmetrical information campaigns to sway opinion and affect voting patterns, and legislators and other policy makers/influencers in particular have been appalling slow at recognising the threat and formulating an effective independent response that does not require FB’s voluntary support. US lawmakers… Read more »