After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, does the EU need to tighten regulations on social media companies?

The EU has recently announced that it plans to increase its efforts when it comes to tackling fake news and online disinformation. But, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, calls have been made for more action to be taken against the misuse of personal data.

Allegedly, the data of over 50 million Facebook users ended up being harvested and used, during both the 2016 US election campaigns and the EU referendum in the UK. With the Commission due to introduce a new digital strategy later in the month, officials and leaders across the union are urging that more action is taken to prevent future scandals of the same nature.

French president, Emmanuel Macron, has already pledged to introduce laws banning fake news during election and political campaigns. And in preparation for the upcoming 2019 European election, Sir Julian King, EU commissioner for security, has said that he wants a “clear game plan” on how social media companies like facebook are allowed to collect and use data during elections.

He added that “psychometric targeting activities” are just a “preview of the profoundly disturbing effects such disinformation could have on the functioning of liberal democracies”. He has also been campaigning for stricter regulations on how much information can be collected for political purposes and how it’s used.

Some examples of measures he wants to see introduce are more transparency of the internal algorithms that are used by social media companies, as well as how sites use this information to promote stories and who is funding these stories.

However, critics have argued that by regulating sites too heavily, we risk undermining the rights of publishers and freedom of speech. One complaint submitted to the EU ombudsman stated:  “The EU Disinformation Review seeks to control the right to freedom of expression by labelling publishers as ‘disinformation outlets’ and their content as ‘disinformation’, creating a chilling effect on the work of journalists that is central to democracy.”

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