Social media companies must be held accountable for Covid disinformation, argues expert

15 November 2020, 11:51

Professor of AI on weeding out conspiracies around pandemic online

By Seán Hickey

This AI expert insisted that social media companies currently aren't accountable enough for the spread of Covid-19 disinformation.

Dr Daniel Allington is senior lecturer in Social and Cultural Artificial Intelligence at King’s College London and joined Andrew Castle to discuss the spread of coronavirus disinformation online.

"It's a fact that if people are provided with poor quality information they will make poor quality decisions," said Dr Allington, arguing that social media companies have a responsibility to ensure information shared on their platforms is factual.

Up until this point however, the AI expert insisted these companies "have resisted any kind of limitation on what people can circulate on their platforms."

"Something has to be done," he insisted, revealing to Andrew that "people who get most of their information on covid-19 online are less likely to get a vaccine."

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Andrew wondered whether we should allow people to remain in their echo chambers in relation to disinformation on a vaccine, making the point that "there's nothing you can say" to these people to convince them of the facts.

Dr Allington replied, noting that ultimately you cannot force people to ignore disinformation, but "allowing social media companies to push this content on people," is where the issue lies.

"Up until now we've tended to regulate social media companies as if they were just communications networks," he said, insisting that we should be regulating these platforms as broadcasters instead.

"Given the reach their providing their users with, they should be treated as broadcasters."

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