Rep. Adam Schiff told Google and Twitter to step up their fight against coronavirus misinformation with an unexpected message: Be more like Facebook

Adam Schiff. Reuters
  • Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff has called on Google and Twitter to step up their efforts in fighting misinformation on their platforms.
  • Schiff pointed the companies to look at what Facebook has been doing, which was rare kudos for the social network in its fight against misinformation.
  • Schiff wants YouTube and Twitter to not only stop users finding misinformation, but redirect them to better information when they do.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Facebook is used to being grilled by lawmakers over its handling of misinformation, but the company received a rare kudos from Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who has called on Google and Twitter to step up their own efforts in the battle against disinformation related to the coronavirus.

In a letter shared on Twitter, Schiff congratulated Google and Twitter for their early commitment to fighting misinformation, but went on to criticise both platforms for not doing more to provide the right information, too.

“Among the harmful misinformation currently on YouTube, recent reporting has shown that it is easy to find videos spreading false and dangerous statements about the coronavirus or treatments, including conspiracy theories linking the virus to 5G towers, anti-vaccine messages suggesting the virus was engineered, and videos suggesting that drinking or consuming bleach may cure the disease” wrote Schiff.

He drew on examples of similar content being shared on Twitter.

But what was more surprising was how Schiff pointed to Facebook as the shining example of what these companies should be striving towards.

“As you are likely aware, Facebook recently announced plans got display messages to any users who have engaged with harmful coronavirus-related misinformation that has since been removed from the platform and connect them with resources from the World Health Organisation,” he wrote.

Facebook has been fighting its own war on misinformation around the pandemic, cracking down on fake cures, stamping out conspiracy theory groups, and rolling out the feature mentioned in Schiff’s letter, which will alert users when they interact with a post that shares disinformation about the coronavirus, and point them toward information from the WHO.

Google was also early to fighting misinformation on its own platforms, and has taken various steps to do so, including making financial contributions to fact-checking organisations.

The company told Business Insider today that it removed 2.7 billion “bad ads” in 2019, and that it has improved efforts with the coronavirus.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have closely monitored advertiser behaviour to protect users from fraudulent ads that look to take advantage of the crisis,” a Google spokesperson told Business Insider.

But it’s YouTube that Schiff is still concerned about, and why his letter was co-addressed to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. YouTube has had to respond fast to curb the rise of misinformation on its platform, but things have slipped through.

A Business Insider investigation found examples of ads flouting YouTube’s rules for price-gouging by adopting creative methods to get through the filter.

Schiff hasn’t asked for a response from the companies, and right now neither YouTube nor Twitter has announced plans to introduce features similar to Facebook’s on their own platforms. However, YouTube this week announced it will start showing fact-check information panels when users search for certain topics likely to spread misinformation.

As for Twitter, it recently updated its guidelines to demand users take down tweets that “incite people to action and cause widespread panic, social unrest or large-scale disorder.”