Tech companies prepare to fight UK poll misinformation

Business | 8 Nov 2019 6:41 pm

Facebook is opening up a war room to quickly respond to election hoaxes. Twitter is banning political ads. Google plans to crack down on bogus videos on YouTube.

Social media platforms say they are mounting a vigorous campaign against misinformation in the lead up to next month’s general election in the United Kingdom. But digital misinformation experts believe British voters remain vulnerable to the same type of misleading ads and phony claims that played a role in the vote to leave the European Union three years ago.

Government inaction on online misinformation and digital ad regulations have added to the pressure internet companies are under as they face growing criticism for amplifying false claims during the run up to the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2016 election in the U.S.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed for the snap Dec. 12 election, in which voters will choose their representatives in Parliament, hoping his Conservative Party will gain enough seats to break a stalemate over his plan to take Britain out of the EU.

And with campaigns barely under way, falsehoods are already spreading online.

A video posted this week on Twitter and Facebook by the Conservative Party contains a misleading edit of a television interview with a senior Labour Party figure. The video had been altered to show the official failing to answer a question about Brexit, when, in fact, he responded quickly.

The chairman of the Conservative Party called the doctored video lighthearted satire, but it’s part of a serious problem confronting British voters, according to Will Moy, chief executive at Full Fact, an independent, London-based fact-checking organization.

“The biggest risk to people in the U.K. right now is being lied to by their own politicians,” said Moy, whose organization works with Facebook and others as a third-party fact checker, as does The Associated Press. He said laws written decades ago to cover political advertising for print, radio and television can’t be applied to the reach and speed of the internet.

Public debate surrounding the 2016 Brexit vote was driven in part by a number of false claims. They included promises that Britain could recoup 350 million pounds per week by leaving the EU — an unfounded claim that a survey later found was believed by nearly half of all Britons.-AP

 

 

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