Facebook should be investigated for "intentionally" breaking privacy laws in the UK, a group of MPs investigating fake news and disinformation has said.

The MPs say they want social media content to be urgently policed by a new regulator and this should be financed by a new charge on tech giants.

The year-and-a-half-long investigation by the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee concluded Facebook has “intentionally and knowingly” violated data privacy laws and said it should now face investigation.

“Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law,” the DCMS committee wrote in its report.

The committee said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had failed to show “leadership or personal responsibility” over fake news.

The level of fake information online and the misuse of personal information meant there needed to be a “radical shift in the balance of power between social media platforms and the people”, it said.

Besides establishing a new watchdog for social media sites, there should also be a compulsory set of ethics governing such platforms. And social media sites should be compelled to take down content when it was shown to be false and also to act over “harmful content”. Failing to act should mean fines levied by the new regulator.

MPs focused in particular on evidence relating to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which involved the use of millions of people’s personal data to allegedly profile voters in the US.

"Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised 'dark adverts' from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use every day," MPs said.

"The big tech companies are failing in the duty of care they owe to their users to act against harmful content, and to respect their data privacy rights."

The committee also called for current electoral laws and rules on overseas involvement in UK elections to be reformed.

The news comes as it is reported that Facebook is in talks with the US Federal Trade Commission about settling an investigation into privacy breaches following the Cambridge Analytica scandal that could result in a record fine, FT.com reports.

Facebook says it rejected claims it had breached data protection and competition laws.

But Karim Palant, the group’s UK public policy manager, said the company supported “effective privacy legislation that holds companies to high standards in their use of data and transparency for users”, the FT reported.

Facebook also backed the UK committee’s recommendation for electoral law reform, and had already introduced changes to make political ads on its platform were more transparent.

Sourced from the Guardian, Financial Times