As the coronavirus has gripped the world and become the most talked-about subjects online, internet users have shared widely varying opinions on the virus.
Social media companies have responded by introducing several sweeping rule changes that crack down on any dissenting opinions and push users to what they deem to be “authoritative” or “credible” sources of information.
And now the BBC is reporting that the UK government will be working with these social media companies to remove what it deems to be “fake news,” “harmful content,” and “misinformation” related to the coronavirus.
The report doesn’t specify how the UK government will determine what qualifies as fake news or harmful content but many of the social media company’s rules around misinformation have used health institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) as their source of truth.
But even the WHO has amplified a false narrative about the coronavirus by suggesting in a January 14 tweet that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus.”
Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China🇨🇳. pic.twitter.com/Fnl5P877VG
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 14, 2020
Which raises the question, if the so-called experts publish misinformation about the coronavirus, how can the UK government effectively act as the arbiter of truth?
And the UK government has also previously been exposed disseminating fake news via social media which raises further concerns over its role as the moderator of such content.
In addition to this, big tech’s rules around coronavirus misinformation have shown that such crackdowns are often far-reaching and target much more than fake news.
Twitter’s updated rules around the coronavirus target users that deny “expert guidance” and also force some users to remove jokes about the virus.