COVID-19 could be point of no return for Big Tech’s war on misinformation, says GlobalData

Following the news that Facebook’s WhatsApp is imposing new limits on message forwarding to tackle the dissemination of fake news;

Laura Petrone, Senior Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her view:

“Big Tech’s more active role in policing misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that these companies are taking greater responsibility for what is posted online than ever before. Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter are all striving to contain the spread of hoaxes and dangerous so-called cures, with some reviewing their ad policy to forbid promotion of medical misinformation.

“By limiting message forwarding on WhatsApp, Facebook aims to slow the spread of fake news. WhatsApp users will now only be able to send a message to one chat at a time, whereas the limit under the previous rule was five chats. Due to encryption, the messaging app cannot see the content on the platform, making it difficult to moderate content.

“Online publishers such as Facebook have always claimed to be content-neutral platforms with no responsibility for monitoring the content published by users. But the current crisis has forced tech giants to intervene and regulate online content in the same way as traditional publishers.

“The global pandemic is likely to be a point of no return for them, as after the crisis they will be expected to keep policing harmful content. Fixing the fake news problem will, in time, become a test case for artificial intelligence (AI): whichever company does it with the fewest number of human support staff will have a prominent showcase for their AI prowess.”

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