The Straits Times says

Stemming a tide of misinformation

As misleading information continues to pour out on social media platforms, restraints must necessarily be applied. Last week, Twitter took down tens of thousands of accounts that it said were broadcasting "manipulative" Chinese narratives on the coronavirus and Hong Kong protests. Two weeks earlier, Twitter flagged as dubious two posts by United States President Donald Trump on mail-in voting. It also hid another tweet that it said glorified violence. The same post, however, could be viewed unfettered on Facebook which continues to catch criticism for its refusal to administer fact checks on posts by politicians and on political advertisements. Between them, the two social media giants host hundreds of millions of posts per day. The sheer volume means that fake or incendiary posts filter past their moderators, both human and algorithmic.

The last high tide in fake news occurred in 2016 when it is thought to have influenced the outcomes of the US presidential election and the Brexit vote. Now, amid the pandemic, a travesty is being inflicted in the form of false cures, anti-vaccination propaganda and conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus. In March and April, Facebook flagged nearly 90 million pieces of content related to Covid-19 as misinformation. Twitter has challenged more than 4.3 million accounts over similar concerns. The virus is seen as the biggest phishing bait yet. Google blocks nearly 18 million scam e-mails on the topic every day.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2020, with the headline 'Stemming a tide of misinformation'. Print Edition | Subscribe