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The DCMS report shows them to be well-meaning, but digitally illiterate

The long awaited DCMS report on Fake News and social media was published today, and while the tone of its criticisms of Facebook is notable in its harshness, overall the report is rather bland and toothless.  While the recommendations may give parliament more regulatory rights over social media, the report also shows a disturbing lack of understanding of what Facebook is, its business model, its role in our lives and its participation in our democracy.  

The list of findings includes things like Mark Zuckerberg isn’t very nice, Russians are dodgy, multi-billion companies can’t be trusted to regulate themselves, and Brexit was hacked using secret funds.  Really!?  I am shocked.  Meanwhile Facebook comes out of it all as a company who will sell your private data at the drop of a hat, or the click of a like, but when asked to share information about their algorithms, data sharing politics or just the names behind ongoing campaigns to skew the result of the 2016 Referendum, it becomes all coy and secretive. 

As for the regulations, they will be ineffective in my opinion because the committee is made up of people who don’t get social media and think they can just regulate it into a version of mainstream media.  After 18 months of searching, they have failed to see what is right in front of their eyes, Facebook is not a product failing its customers, WE the customers are the product.  If you want to regulate Facebook then what this means is that are going to have to regulate its users, something Facebook’s algorithms will always be more capable of then any parliamentary body. 

One interesting aspect of the report did interest me however, right at the boring bottom of the Guardian’s list.  The committee recommends the digital literacy should be taught at schools.  I agree, I have been teaching digital literacy for years and my first recommendation, all the members of the DCMS should take my course because at present, well-meaning through they are, they appear woefully digitally illiterate.


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