Social Media Firms Face Sanctions For ‘Anti-Vax Content’, Labor Party Demands | Coronavirus


Social media companies that do not act to “eradicate dangerous anti-vaccine content” should face financial and criminal penalties, Labor demanded.

As hopes rise that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready in a matter of weeks, Labor analysis found dedicated online groups with hundreds of thousands of members continue to generate disinformation – despite the news measures announced by government and social media companies last week to tackle the problem.

In letter to Oliver Dowden, digital, culture and media secretary, Labor warns spread of disinformation presents “real and current danger” to vaccination efforts and calls on government to introduce legislation against online mischief. Jo Stevens and Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Secretaries for Culture and Health,

say in the letter that if the government works with Labor on the issue it will provide votes to pass laws.

The government announced a deal with the social media giants last week. But details of the deal revealed that the only commitment was not to profit or promote the reported anti-vax content. This raised the question of why these groups weren’t just closed.

The work says his analysis shows:

• The anti-vaccine social media groups exposed by the Center for Countering Digital Hate months ago still remain open and active in spreading misinformation.

• Numerous openly anti-vaccination groups with nearly 100,000 Facebook users can be found within seconds of logging into the platform in the UK.

• Videos featuring leading anti-vaxxers on YouTube always contain revenue-generating ads for the platform.

• Groups engaged in the fight against extremists warn that anti-vaccination conspiracy theories provide recruiting ground for the far right.

Stevens says:

“The government has a dismal record for taking action against online platforms that facilitate the spread of disinformation. It has been clear for years that this is a widespread and growing problem and the government knows, because Labor has been warning them for some time, that it poses a real threat to vaccine uptake. It is literally a matter of life and death and anyone discouraged from getting the vaccine because of it is one too many.

Other groups joined in the call to action. Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said, “Despite promises from big tech, Google continues to fund anti-vax disinformation websites by placing ads on them, while Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube gives anti-vaxxers a platform to spread conspiracy theories and dangerous lies to millions of users.

“Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, big tech made bold statements of intent, but failed to deliver effective action. It is vital that there are penalties when social media companies fail to fulfill their duty of care to users and to society as a whole. The government must stop making big tech excuses and introduce financial and criminal sanctions for failures that cause serious damage.

“We have all done our part to contain the coronavirus. It’s high time for social media companies and regulators to do their part. “

But Adam Hadley, founder and director of the Online Harms Foundation, said that while it can be superficially appealing to good social media platforms to allow users to post content online, “it creates more problems than it does. ‘in resolves’.

“Anti-vaxxers will always exist, whether or not they are allowed to make their case online. A more sensible solution would be to require social media companies to run government ads alongside anti-vaxxer content, ”Hadley said.

“It’s better to defeat controversial ideas by debating and debunking them rather than effectively banning people from talking about them. When this happens, these debates tend to move to the fringes of the internet and the offline world, where they are often exploited by extremist groups whose sole purpose is to stir up division and discontent, ”he said. -he adds.


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