Social media giants must tackle disinformation before general election

PUBLISHED: 09:37 30 October 2019 | UPDATED: 09:53 30 October 2019

A Mark Zuckerberg figure with people in angry emoji masks outside Portcullis House in Westminster ahead of DCMS inquiry into fake news. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

A Mark Zuckerberg figure with people in angry emoji masks outside Portcullis House in Westminster ahead of DCMS inquiry into fake news. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

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There are warnings that web giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter must take 'serious further steps' to tackle disinformation on their platforms before a general election.

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The European Commission has previously made the call for change to tackle their attitudes to elections by the end of the year, but now campaigners are calling for platforms to ramp up their efforts ahead of the general election on December 12th.

The commission had warned it may introduce "regulatory or co-regulatory measures" - which could force tech companies to share their data more openly - if they fail to improve their record by the end of the year.

By opening up data, it will allow journalists, developers and the research community to analyse operations.

It follows calls from the UK Electoral Commission for new electoral regulatory rules to ensure proper oversight and controls.

Now the Open Knowledge Foundation has called for urgent reforms ahead of the 2019 general election.

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"Facebook, Google and Twitter must act on the growing demands for greater transparency," said Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation.

"The social media giants have been at the centre of a series of rows about disinformation, particularly in connection with the Brexit referendum, and that simply cannot be allowed to happen once again in the run-up to December's UK general election. Urgent action is required, and if the platforms don't act, then they need to be forced to."

She continued: "The institutions of the EU must use their influence to require online platforms to provide more detailed information allowing the identification of malign actors, put pressure on Facebook, Google and Twitter to increase transparency, and encourage closer working with fact checkers to prevent the spread of disinformation.

"The best way to tackle disinformation is to make information open, allowing journalists, developers and the research community to carry out analysis of disinformation operations."

Her comments come as Jess Phillips MP told the House of Commons that electoral laws for coping with a general election were "not fit for purpose".

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