Over 80 percent of UK consumers believe Facebook should be regulated by the government not only because the platform isn’t doing enough to curb fake news that damage the democratic process, but also because it has not demonstrated its seriousness about privacy issues, data misuse, and cyber bullying.
The overwhelming support of the British public towards government regulation over Facebook signals a major shift from not many years ago when upcoming social media firms were seen as the biggest platforms that would enable freedom of expression and would enable dissenters, journalists, and human rights campaigners to air their views without fear of government action.
Most people think Facebook doesn’t care about user privacy
However, since last year, Facebook, the biggest social media platform in the world that also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, has gained a reputation of not respecting user privacy, selling user data to the highest bidders, enabling third party apps to carry out surveillance of users’ activities and preferences, and not providing clear answers when questioned by governments about its data security practices.
For instance, an investigation carried out by The New York Times and The Times in December last year revealed that Facebook allowed over 150 companies to enjoy unlimited access to user data, in violation of its commitment to limit the data third-party apps could access.
Firms that enjoyed unlimited access to the data of millions of users included online retailers, entertainment sites, automakers, media organisations, and technology businesses. Even though Facebook claimed to have updated its policies in 2014 to limit the data third-party apps could access, apps owned by such firms continued to enjoy the kind of access to user data post-2014 that they did back in 2010.
In a fresh survey carried out by One Poll on behalf of Eskenzi PR, 83 percent of UK consumers have expressed their support for government regulation of Facebook with 70 percent stating that Facebook isn’t doing enough to curb the spread of fake news which is damaging democracy.
Other reasons mentioned by UK consumers for supporting government regulation over Facebook included Facebook not being responsible with their data and the company not demonstrating its seriousness about privacy issues, data misuse, and cyber bullying. As many as 73 percent of people polled by the firm also called for regulation over Facebook because they feel the social platform is damaging peoples’ mental health.
“We have recently seen a real arrogance coming from Facebook and our survey shows the general public are waking up to this. More importantly, a massive majority of people not only think the platform is harming people’s mental health but also impacting our democracy, privacy and damaging security,” said Yvonne Eskenzi, director of Eskenzi PR.
Facebook needs to win back consumer confidence
“The social media giant once thought of as too big to fail appears fallible for the first time, with such a wholehearted reprimand from the British public. The Cambridge Analytica scandal combined with the government’s own damning findings about Facebook’s influence over democratic process means they need to adapt, or face the consequences,” said Corin Imai, senior security advisor at DomainTools.
“While it would be unfair to say they have not done anything in order to protect the public from fake news and disinformation aimed at influencing democratic processes, there is still a mountain for them to climb in the public consciousness. The public have wised up to the fact that elections are the critical infrastructure of our democracy, and that social media is an unpatched vulnerability within it. It’s up to Facebook to patch it, or governments around the world will be forced to intervene,” Imai added.
Tim Erlin, VP at Tripwire, also says that it seems clear that the vast majority of respondents are concerned about Facebook, but regulation could mean many things. These results are a good indication that lawmakers’ attempts to regulate Facebook will be greeted positively.
“Regulation is often a blunt instrument applied to problems with nuance. In this case, any regulation developed would have to apply more broadly than to just Facebook. There’s room for unintended consequences to other industries and organisations,” he said.