Tech giants join Government and experts to tackle misinformation on virus

20 November 2020, 00:04

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Tech giants collaborate with Government and experts over anti-vaccination fears. Picture: PA

Campaigners warn bad information could ‘undermine trust in medicine when it matters most’.

The world’s major technology giants have agreed to work more closely with the Government and researchers over fears that misinformation could jeopardise coronavirus vaccines and prolong the pandemic.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have been brought on board a new working group led by fact-checking charity Full Fact, in a bid to find new ways of collectively tackling the problem.

The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent wave of bad information has demonstrated the need for a collaborative approach to fight misinformation, the charity said, especially as governments prepare to roll out vaccines in the coming months.

Will Moy, chief executive of Full Fact, said: “Bad information ruins lives, and we all have a responsibility to fight it where we see it.

“The coronavirus pandemic and the wave of false claims that followed demonstrated the need for a collective approach to this problem.

“A coronavirus vaccine is now potentially just months away. But bad information could undermine trust in medicine when it matters most, and ultimately prolong this pandemic.

“This project is an attempt to learn the lessons of previous crises of bad information, whether during elections or pandemics, to make sure we’re all ready to contain the next one before it unfolds.

“Joining up the efforts of social media companies, government departments, public health bodies and fact-checkers will help us fight misinformation more effectively.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will be involved, alongside Canada’s Privy Council Office, researchers and fact-checking organisations from across the globe.

Together the group will attempt to come up with standards of accountability for addressing misinformation, as well as a set of aims on ways to respond to bad information that can work across all of the participating organisations.

Full Fact will co-ordinate the drafting of an initial framework, set for launch in January 2021 – with funding support from Facebook – followed by an open process to refine the framework throughout the year.

Keren Goldshlager, of integrity partnerships at Facebook, said: “Working together to tackle misinformation is really important, especially bad content around the Covid-19 pandemic right now.

“We’ve seen huge value in partnering with over 80 independent fact-checkers globally to combat misinformation in 60 languages.

“We welcome this effort to convene more tech companies, fact-checkers, researchers and governments to discuss and develop new strategies, so that we can work together even more effectively in the future.”

By Press Association