Oversight Of Technical Platforms Critical In Preventing Spread Of Medical Misinformation

Financial Times: Measles outbreak is a reminder of the power of viral information
Marietje Schaake, Dutch politician and member of the European Parliament

“…While authorities scramble to contain [measles], the influence of information taken from the internet on people’s real-life choices is undeniable. … It is now time for systematic scrutiny of the algorithms that make anti-vaccination and other toxic information go viral. … Without oversight, the public interest is not protected. … Tech platforms cannot remain immune to regulation when their tools lead to the spread of diseases, lies, or hatred. … Transparency rules should require platforms to make clear when bots are involved and the sources of advertising. Knowing who is paying to amplify and spread medical hoax messages is as important as knowing the sources of political ads. With more information, we may better understand the links between the anti-vaccination movement and politicians … who have … questioned the medical, as well as political, establishments. The recent measles outbreaks remind us that our understanding of the toxic impact of algorithms on people’s actions is proven, and that ad hoc protection measures are not enough. Systematic oversight of the way the online information ecosystem steers people’s behavior is needed to prevent future epidemics, whether medical or political” (4/23).

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