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Facebook, Google, Twitter, & TikTok to be grilled by UK lawmakers

As European efforts to regulate social media companies gain traction, British lawmakers are set to grill Facebook and other tech giants on Thursday about how they handle online safety.

Members of a parliamentary committee investigating the British government’s draught online safety legislation will question representatives from Facebook, Google, Twitter, and TikTok.

Governments on both sides of the Atlantic want tougher rules to protect social media users, particularly those under the age of 18, but the United Kingdom is far ahead of the pack. Researchers, journalists, tech executives, and other experts are being questioned by UK lawmakers for a report to the government on how to improve the final version of the online safety bill.

The hearing comes after a US Senate panel questioned YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat last week. They made no firm commitments in support of US legislation aimed at protecting children from online harm, which lawmakers say includes eating disorders, sexually explicit content, and material that promotes the use of addictive drugs.

Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, testified before a UK committee this week, telling members that the company’s systems exacerbate online hate and that it has little incentive to address the issue. She claimed that the time for regulating social media companies that use artificial intelligence systems to determine what content people see is running out.

Haugen was a Facebook data scientist who handed over internal research documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States. They were also given to a group of news organisations, including The Associated Press, which published numerous stories about how Facebook put profits ahead of safety and withheld its own research from investors and the public.

The UK’s online safety bill calls for a regulator to ensure that tech companies follow rules requiring them to remove potentially harmful or dangerous content or face fines of up to 10% of annual global revenue. Similar digital rules are being developed by the European Union.

Legislators in the United Kingdom are still grappling with thorny issues such as ensuring privacy and free speech, as well as defining legal but harmful content, such as online bullying and self-harm advocacy.

They’re also attempting to control the spread of misinformation on social media.

Maria Ressa, a Filipino journalist who shared the Nobel Peace Prize this year for her courageous fight for freedom of expression in the face of grave dangers, acknowledged the difficulty, telling the committee on Wednesday that a law to combat disinformation is needed.

Ressa stated, “Regulation is our last hope.” “The issue is that you’ll be a role model for everyone else in the world, so you’ll have to be a gold standard, which is difficult.” Simultaneously, “doing nothing” brings the world closer to fascism “she continued.

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