Facebook whistleblower advises UK lawmakers on enforcement of online safety bill

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The Houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom as seen across Westminster Bridge.

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Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang gave UK lawmakers her take on how best to implement the Online Security Bill during a hearing in Parliament on Monday. The former Facebook data scientist used her in-depth knowledge of moderation practices to answer questions from the Online Security Bill Joint Committee on how to ensure tech companies comply with upcoming legislation that affects them. would see more tightly regulated in the UK.

The Online Safety Bill, formerly known as the Online Damages Bill, is a key piece of legislation that would put the UK media watchdog Ofcom in charge of regulating media platforms social in the name of user safety. Ofcom would have the power to fine tech companies in the amount of £ 18million ($ 25.3million) or 10% of their annual revenue, whichever is greater, if they fail. not remove harmful or illegal content, as well as block sites and services. Senior executives at tech companies could even face criminal charges if those companies consistently fail to meet their obligations.

Zhang told lawmakers that if social media companies were to conduct their own risk assessments, it could cause them not to recognize their own problems internally. “If you bury your head in the sand and pretend the problem isn’t there, then you don’t have as much to report to Ofcom,” she said via video link.

Zhang’s appearance before the parliamentary committee arrives exactly one week before Another Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, speaks with MPs. Earlier this month, Haugen testified before the US Congress, alleging that its products “harm children, fuel division and weaken our democracy.”

According to his whistleblower testimony, Zhang has direct experience of leading leaders to focus on issues only to turn a blind eye until it is too late.

Zhang previously revealed that in her role as a data scientist on the Facebook team investigating “bogus pledges,” she told the company that fake accounts were being used to distort the results of the presidential election in Honduras. On Monday, she said she had personally briefed the company’s vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, about it, but it took the company nine months to launch an investigation and nearly a year. year to take action.

Zhang’s suggestion to UK lawmakers was that instead of leaving the police to platforms, Ofcom and other outside experts should conduct their own experiments to test the effectiveness of social media companies in keeping people safe. users. She also advised that the platforms should provide better access to data to trusted researchers for more independent verification. She noted that “it creates privacy risks. Aleksandr Kogan” – whose work with Cambridge Analytica led to a Facebook privacy scandal in 2018 – “after all, was also an academic researcher.”

In a tweet after the evidence session, Zhang noted that it did not have time to address the ongoing debate in the UK on banning end-to-end encryption (caused by politicians’ fears about the circulation of terrorist and child pornography). She said she was “strongly opposed” to the idea, joining the chorus of privacy activists who argue that encryption protects users and that the introduction of backdoors would make people more vulnerable to privacy. hacks.



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