Letter in The Times

Restless Development’s UK Director writes to The Times to highlight the work of Youth Against Misinformation and call for more action to take down dangerous misinformation being shared online.

The full letter is below and was first published in The Times (paywall).

It is no surprise that misinformation will stop people getting a potentially life-saving vaccine (“One in five don’t want a coronavirus vaccine amid fears of side-effects”, Sep 24). Young volunteers have been tracking and reporting misinformation since the pandemic began, with little or no action from social media companies to take down these dangerous lies.

In a report published last month with the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and Restless Development, the volunteers found that only 2.3 per cent of anti-vaccine misinformation reported to social media platforms was removed and only 5 per cent acted on. The spread of misinformation is not hiding in the shadows: in July the CCDH identified 409 anti-vaccine pages across social media with a following of 58 million. Only six of those pages have been removed since the list was sent to the platforms, while the remaining pages have seen their audience continue to grow by more than one million.

The government must urgently legislate to force tech giants to keep their platforms free from misinformation. We have made enormous sacrifices to keep our society safe, so inaction by social media companies must not be the avoidable tragedy that stops us from eradicating Covid-19.

Rosanne Palmer-White
UK director, Restless Development

Stopping misinformation

Youth Against Misinformation, formed of 31 young volunteers, is tracking and reporting misinformation about COVID-19 in a bid to stop it spreading online and doing harm.

Supported by Restless Development and the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), Youth Against Misinformation has two aims: to monitor and root out dangerous COVID-19 misinformation online; and build the skill-set and agency of young people to understand how misinformation is spread online, identify fake news and develop strategies to tackle it. Volunteers receive comprehensive training from Restless Development and CCDH on how to identify, report and respond to harmful misinformation online.

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