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Public Knowledge Launches Tracking Report to Log Digital Platform Responses to Misinformation During the Pandemic

March 27, 2020 , , ,

Today, we’re happy to announce the launch of our newest tracking report to log digital platform responses to misinformation during this pandemic. The report monitors how major digital platforms like Twitter and Google respond to the crisis and analyzes their various approaches, helping policymakers, media, and the public to better explore what platforms are doing to combat the rising “infodemic” — a dangerous onslaught of misunderstandings, inaccurate data, and lies about the coronavirus spread rapidly online. Public Knowledge will update the tracking report weekly as the pandemic unfolds.

The following can be attributed to Lisa Macpherson, Senior Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge:

“Over the past three months, Americans have been forced to grapple with two potentially deadly epidemics: the novel coronavirus, and what the World Health Organization describes as an ‘infodemic’ of false and misleading information about it. 

“We started this report to understand how the major digital platforms were responding to the infodemic, and what it reveals about their capabilities to detect, analyze, and — when warranted — remove disinformation from their platforms. This should help us hold the platforms accountable for both the good work they’re doing, as well as for where they are falling short. It’s already clear that their capabilities may exceed what we have seen from their behavior in the past —  but it’s also clear the virus presents unique challenges.

“There are many elements at play in how platforms respond to the infodemic. These elements already include the use of machine learning for content moderation, the transformation of economic incentives due to restrictions on advertising for health products and some advertisers’ reluctance to appear adjacent to health terms, and even the platforms’ willingness to collaborate with each other or with health organizations. These elements may suggest policy solutions that can address not only the pandemic but also the role of misinformation in our lives, affecting our well being, society, and our very trust in institutions. 

“Containing the coronavirus outbreak also introduces complex challenges in regard to consumer privacy and the sufficiency of our public institutions — communications infrastructure and public support for local journalism, to name a few. Public Knowledge has framed policy recommendations for these and other issues that we hope will transcend the pandemic.”

You may view the report here.