The English Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, has revealed that he will shortly be meeting with Facebook Vice President, Nick Clegg, to tackle misinformation further spreading during the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Hancock revealed the development in response to a question from Ogmore MP, Chris Elmore, who called anti-vaccination conspiracy theories an “ideological time bomb waiting to go off”. The Welsh Labour MP registered his concern that a growing level of so-called “anti-vax” misinformation has been spreading online – particularly via social media platforms.
Speaking following his latest coronavirus statement in Parliament, Mr Hancock said that social media giants had an “important responsibility” to take action on the burgeoning levels of inaccurate information circulating on their sites. He added that other social media companies would need to be more proactive as well.
The Centre for Countering Digital Hate recently found that the firms are currently making up to $1 billion every year from people following anti-vax information that could cause “tens of thousands” of coronavirus deaths. Despite pledges made by Facebook and others to crack down on harmful posts, the CCHD has found that at least 57 million users now follow anti-vaxxers on mainstream platforms across the UK and US. This represents a 7.7 million increase since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Speaking after the Commons statement, Chris Elmore MP said:
“Corrosive conspiracy theories must be countered – we’ve scarcely been in a situation where this could be more important. Anti-vax information is misleading, dangerous, and could even cost lives.
“Social media companies need to be much more proactive about responding to this material being shared on their platforms. They can’t remain neutral on issues that are factually untrue and which, crucially, could cause harm to others.
“I’m pleased Matt Hancock was able to confirm to me that he’ll be shortly meeting Facebook to discuss this and I hope this is an issue which retains his attention in the critical weeks and months ahead.”