Tech giants recalled by MPs over lack of ‘adequate answers’ on disinformation

Facebook, Google and Twitter face a fresh grilling by MPs after their latest evidence was lambasted for not providing “adequate answers”.

Representatives from the three tech giants were questioned by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee last month, in a bid to understand how they are tackling disinformation about coronavirus.

But follow-up questions put to the three organisations in writing have failed to produce clearer answers, the committee said.

“We were very disappointed by the standard of evidence given by all three social media companies, given the damage that can be done by the deliberate spreading of false information about Covid-19 and the need to tackle it urgently,” said committee chairman Julian Knight.

Julian Knight
Julian Knight wrote to the companies, demanding more senior executives face questioning next time (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

“The failures by Twitter, Facebook and Google to give adequate answers in writing to our outstanding questions have left me with no alternative but to recall them to Parliament,” said the Tory MP for Solihull.

“This time we expect the companies to demonstrate the importance they attach to this issue by sending senior executives who have knowledge of their policies and can be held accountable for them.”

Response letters to the companies demand that more senior executives with “sufficient knowledge and authority” face MP’s questions instead, sometime in the first week of June.

The committee said it was not satisfied with the information Facebook shared about design decisions for WhatsApp in limiting the spread of false narratives, as well as the platform’s reliance on automated content moderation.

Twitter was told there remained “outstanding questions regarding user verification, reporting mechanisms and content moderation”, on top of concern about the role of influencers in spreading disinformation about issues such as 5G.

Meanwhile, Google has been asked to address issues around its user reporting functionality, algorithms and recommendation systems, and the placing of ads on websites.

The tech giants have been working on a number of ways to combat the spread of disinformation related to Covid-19 since the outbreak began.

Twitter recently began labelling tweets that contain disputed or misleading information about the virus, while Facebook removed a page belonging to David Icke which featured coronavirus conspiracy theories.

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