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Tech giants join working group to tackle Covid-19 misinformation - expert comment

With the possibility of a vaccine for Covid-19 on the horizon, social media giants Facebook, Twitter and Google have announced that they will work with Government on tackling misinformation about the virus that could undermine a vaccination efforts. Dr Eric Jensen from the Department of Sociology, who is part of a research project on social media and COVID-19 (mis)information, seeing this as a positive sign that could make a significant difference in countering misinformation.

Dr Eric Jensen said: "Fake news and misinformation are urgent concerns in the UK and globally. It is clear that misinformation can undermine people’s ability to separate fact from fiction. This can benefit a small number of people that are in the position to exercise power in society because it helps them to evade accountability. It can also have immediate life or death consequences in a public health crisis, where people are operating based on false information. For commercial reasons, social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google (e.g. via Youtube) have been slow to assertively deal with misinformation. Their platforms have been major drivers for conspiracy thinking and misinformation, as their algorithms feed people more and more fringe content once someone stumbles on the first piece of appealing false information. As political pressure in the United States has ratcheted up, social media companies have begun a more serious (albeit imperfect) effort to start to curb the spread of misinformation on their platforms. Formation of a working group to address this topic with the UK government is a positive sign. From these companies’ perspectives, being part of the government conversation reduces the risk of onerous regulations seriously threatening their businesses. But if the Government is aggressive in pushing for strong action, this collaborative initiative could lead to rapid and desperately needed change to the (mis)information ecosystem that these three companies are continually feeding."

20 November 2020


Peter Thorley
Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics)


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