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Dingell Presses Social Media Companies to Tackle Coronavirus Misinformation

Washington, January 31, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) pressed leading social media companies to take steps to stop the spread of misinformation as it relates to the Coronavirus. Dingell asked questions of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok.

“During a global health emergency, it is vital to the public interest that individuals have access to timely and accurate information. As expert’s knowledge and understanding about this virus grows, so too will the necessity of accurate and reliable information for the world.  As global companies, a rampant spread of inaccurate information will have a decidedly negative impact on the response efforts to contain and mitigate this global health emergency,” wrote Dingell.

Dingell continues to vigorously monitor the coronavirus and work with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and related federal agencies to ensure all preventative measures are taken to monitor and educate travelers and the public from the recent outbreak in China. Last week, she asked the CDC for an update on coronavirus screenings at international airports such as Detroit Metro. This week, she attended a briefings with the CDC on their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus in the United States.

Dingell’s letter is available here or below:

Dear Ms. Wojcicki, Mr. Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and Zhu,

With the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the Coronavirus a public health emergency, rising fatalities, and evidence of person to person transmission this letter is being sent to you with concerns and questions on how your platforms are handling inaccurate and misleading information surrounding the dangers and risks associated with this virus. 

During a global health emergency, it is vital to the public interest that individuals have access to timely and accurate information. As expert’s knowledge and understanding about this virus grows, so too will the necessity of accurate and reliable information for the world.  As global companies, a rampant spread of inaccurate information will have a decidedly negative impact on the response efforts to contain and mitigate this global health emergency. 

With any crisis, fear and the need to understand what is happening can cloud judgement and push us to look for answers, credible or not.  This is not a new phenomenon, but what is new is the global reach, impact, and negative effects finding wrong or incomplete answers will have, not only on a given user, but to their families and communities worldwide.  The actions you choose to take will impact the lives of your users and those around them.

Unlike nation-state disinformation campaigns, the effects on users and the public could very well facilitate the continued spread of the Coronavirus and more deaths. With that please provide responses to the following questions:

1.      Is your company working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the WHO in order to prioritize and boost timely and accurate information regarding the Coronavirus? And how specifically are you ensuring the information on your platform is accurate and continues to be accurate as experts understanding of this virus evolves?

2.      Does your platform have policies and practices in place to limit, flag, or demote inaccurate user generated content pertaining to public health emergencies?

3.      If so, what are these policies and practices? And does the public have access to them?

4.      Are such policies and practices being implemented and what accountability measures are in place?

5.      Are human content moderators or technology solutions being used to identify and flag these types of inaccurate content?

Much like this virus, misinformation, willful or benign in nature, will continue to spread until measures are taken to limit exposure and treat symptoms.  I urge you to take serious action in addressing this issue and appreciate your attention to this matter. A prompt response is appreciated.

Sincerely,

Debbie Dingell

Member of Congress

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