(Bloomberg) — U.S. President Donald Trump’s amplification of online fake news helped drive U.K. lawmakers’ urgent recommendation for social media regulation, according to a report published Tuesday.
The paper on misinformation and other “online harms,” drafted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, follows action taken by Twitter Inc. to censor the U.S. president’s tweets. It also called out the president of Brazil.
“Heads of state, especially Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, have deliberately spread false narratives regarding Covid-19,” the British lawmakers concluded in the report.
In another section, they wrote that “false narratives have resulted in people harming themselves by resorting to dangerous hoax cures or forgoing medical treatment altogether.”
Both Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, and Trump have downplayed the risks of the pandemic while their countries have recorded high numbers of cases and deaths.
Read more: U.K. Lawmakers Scorn Tech Attempts to Stem Virus Conspiracies
The report cited attacks on people, and infrastructure such as 5G mobile masts, after baseless conspiracy theories about the technology spread online. The recommendation algorithms which influence the flows of content on platforms like Facebook Inc., Bytedance Inc.’s TikTok and Google’s YouTube should be more heavily scrutinized, it said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday evening.
The 11 members of Parliament issued a raft of non-binding policy recommendations to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tackle what they called an “infodemic” of misinformation catalyzed by the coronavirus outbreak. It remains the government’s decision how to act on the guidance.
The report advised government to:
Immediately name an “online harms” regulator, possibly communications watchdog Ofcom, which can hand out significant fines, ensure custodial sentences, and “disrupt” non-compliant businesses if needed.Publish draft social media “online harms” regulation as soon as possible.Push tech companies to share libraries of adverts and establish its own independent library of tech company-hosted ads.Require platforms to disclose the number of bots on their service, and label bots and automation clearly.
(Updates with White House asked for comment, in seventh paragraph.)
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