London: British lawmakers are set to grill Facebook and other tech giants Thursday over how they handle online safety as European efforts to regulate social media companies gain momentum.
Representatives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and TikTok will be questioned by members of a parliamentary committee scrutinizing the British government’s draft online safety legislation.
Governments on both sides of the Atlantic want tougher rules aimed at protecting social media users, especially younger ones, but the United Kingdom’s efforts are much further along. U.K. lawmakers are questioning researchers, journalists, tech executives and other experts for a report to the government on how to improve the final version of the online safety bill.
The hearing comes the same week YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat were questioned by a U.S. Senate panel. They provided little firm commitment for U.S. legislation bolstering protection of children from online harm, which lawmakers say ranges from eating disorders, sexually explicit content and material promoting addictive drugs.
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared before the U.K. committee this week, telling members that the company’s systems make online hate worse and that it has little incentive to fix the problem. She said time is running out to regulate social media companies that use artificial intelligence systems to determine what content people see.
Haugen was a Facebook data scientist who copied internal research documents and turned them over to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. They also were provided to a group of media outlets, including The Associated Press, which reported numerous stories about how Facebook prioritized profits over safety and hid its own research from investors and the public.
The U.K.’s online safety bill calls for a regulator to ensure tech companies comply with rules requiring them to remove dangerous or harmful content or face penalties worth up to 10% of annual global revenue. The European Union is working on similar digital rules.