Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, released written responses he received from several social media outlets regarding their actions to address coronavirus misinformation on their respective platforms.
Schiff recently sent letters asking Sundar Pichai, Susan Wojcicki and Jack Dorsey, the Chief Executive Officers of Alphabet, YouTube and Twitter, respectively, to proactively inform users who engage with harmful coronavirus-related misinformation before it can be removed and to direct them to authoritative, medically accurate resources.
“I appreciate the steps each platform is taking to reduce Coronavirus misinformation and connect users with authoritative health resources,” Schiff said. “While it is more effective to limit engagement with harmful content and provide context in real time and before users interact with it, that is not always possible given the scale of these platforms,”
Google and Twitter have joined Facebook and other major social media platforms in committing to jointly combat coronavirus-related fraud and misinformation. In addition, Facebook announced last month that it would begin showing messages to users who had interacted with harmful misinformation about COVID-19 that has since been removed from the platform, connecting people with resources from the WHO debunking common myths.
“YouTube’s goal is to provide context and authoritative information before or during viewer engagement, not after,” wrote Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube. “We have invested heavily to make sure that we surface authoritative content in our search results, which significantly reduces the spread of misinformation. We also partner closely with researchers and elected officials from around the world to better understand the challenges of online misinformation and take their recommendations for improvement seriously.”
Twitter earlier this week fact checked President Trump’s false tweet about mail in voting. An enraged threatened to regulate social media afterwards.
“We share your view that providing people with additional context about the information they are viewing can be helpful to combating misinformation,” wrote Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Vice President of Public Policy & Philanthropy, Americas at Twitter. “On May 12th, we announced that we are implementing new labels and warning messages that will provide additional information on some Tweets containing disputed or misleading information related to COVID-19… In this challenging environment, information regarding COVID-19 is constantly evolving and we believe fighting disinformation in real-time is the best use of our resources and attention.”
Despite important steps major Internet platforms have already taken to highlight official health sources and limit harmful medical misinformation, recent reporting has shown content spreading false and potentially dangerous statements about the coronavirus or treatments continues to be prevalent, the statement concludes.
“When unwitting users do engage with false content that could harm them or their families, they should be informed,” Schiff said. “As we look ahead to this year’s election and beyond, the platforms’ investment and responsiveness to misinformation about Coronavirus will be gravely tested, and the health of our society and democracy along with it.”