NEWS22 May 2020

Tech firms recalled by MPs over virus misinformation

Covid-19 News Public Sector UK

UK – The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) sub-committee has asked Facebook, Google and Twitter to return to parliament to answer more questions about how they are treating Covid-19 misinformation.

Someone scrolling through a blue mobile phone in the dark

Representatives from the three companies attended a virtual hearing on 30th April as part of parliament’s ongoing inquiry into online harms and disinformation.

However, committee chair Julian Knight criticised the firms for a lack of ‘clarity and openness’ and said they had not provided adequate responses to follow-up questions.

Knight said in a statement: "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.

"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."

The firms have each been asked to send a senior executive "with sufficient knowledge and authority" to face further questions from MPs during the first week of June.

The committee is seeking answers to various questions including:

  • Facebook’s design decisions for WhatsApp to limit the spread of false information
  • The role of Twitter ‘influencers’ in spreading misinformation including 5G conspiracy theories
  • Concerns about monetisation of misinformation on YouTube.

Facebook’s head of global policy Monika Bickert has accepted the committee’s invitation to give evidence.