UK Government, Facebook, Google, Twitter To Tackle Covid Misinformation

Big name tech platforms have teamed up with the UK government to try and find new ways to combat Coronavirus misinformation.

The development comes as multiple vaccines to prevent Covid-19 near wholesale rollout to the general public, as the world battles a second wave of the pandemic.

The pandemic has at times seen the worse in human behaviour – from downright dangerous claims that 5G causes Coronavirus that has resulted in mobile phone towers set on fire and telephone engineers attacked and even stabbed – to misinformation questioning the efficacy of the forthcoming vaccines.

Coronavirus. Image may be subject to copyright

Coronavirus misinformation

Until recently, each individual tech platform took its own action to clamp down on misinformation.

YouTube for example in early April banned all conspiracy theory videos that falsely link 5G networks to the spread of Coronavirus.

It also banned ‘medically unsubstantiated’ claims relating to Covid-19, but in October it went one step further to ban misleading content relating to vaccines.

But now the fact-checking charity, Full Fact, is co-ordinate a collaboration between Facebook, Twitter, Google, and the UK government among others, to tackle misinformation.

“In September we announced that Full Fact was convening a range of experts to develop a new collaborative model for tackling misinformation crises, with funding support from Facebook,” the charity announced.

“With a coronavirus vaccine now potentially just months away, a wave of related bad information could undermine trust in medicine when it matters most,” it added. “This project is an attempt to learn the lessons of previous waves of bad information, whether during elections or pandemics, to make sure we’re all ready to contain the next crisis before it unfolds.”

“By planning before events happen, and discussing collective aims across different types of organisations, we can all move quicker to respond in proportionate, effective and well-evidenced ways,” Full Fact added.

Standards of Accountability

It said that it has drawn on expertise and experiences from internet companies, academics, civil society and fact checkers around the world, including:

  • Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (UK)
  • Privy Council Office (Canada)
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google
  • Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University
  • First Draft (UK/US/Australia)
  • International Fact-Checking Network
  • Africa Check (South Africa/Nigeria/Kenya/Senegal)
  • Boom (India)
  • Chequeado (Argentina)
  • Maldita.es (Spain)

“The group will aim to set out standards of accountability for tackling misinformation, as well as a set of aims on ways to respond to bad information that can work across all of the participating organisations,” it said

“Core principles will include the need to have a good supply of information, to empower users and to work collaboratively with relevant, responsible experts,” it added.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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