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USA: Google, Facebook and Twitter 'have failed' over disinformation and hate speech

Scrutiny from US Congress today comes after tech giants widely accused of failing to take action to stop misinformation and white supremacist hate speech

Facebook accused of allowing groups linked to QAnon, boogaloo and militias to glorify violence

‘Congress must not fall for Big Tech’s false promises’ - Joe Westby

Ahead of the chief executives of Google, Facebook and Twitter testifying before the US Congress today in relation to long-running accusations that their businesses have failed to take action against the propagation of online misinformation and hate speech, Joe Westby, Acting Deputy Director of Amnesty Tech, said:

“Social media companies have failed to protect people from content on their platforms that incites violence or advocacy of hatred. And despite growing calls for action, users continue to be bombarded with highly targeted advertising, political messages and propaganda.

“Big Tech’s promises of reform ring hollow when companies fail to acknowledge that the true cause of the problem is their data-hungry platforms themselves. 

“The business model of Big Tech firms like Google and Facebook depends on capturing people’s attention to generate ad revenue - to that end, the algorithms that determine what we see on Facebook’s newsfeed or Google’s YouTube frequently amplify discrimination and inflammatory content.

“These companies appeal to our emotions of fear and anger to keep us staring at our screens. 

“This can have a devastating effect at a population scale, fuelling polarisation, division or serious human rights consequences.

“The inaction of states around the world, who have left these tech giants to self-regulate, has allowed their platforms to grow to a scale where harmful content can spread like wildfire. 

“Congress must not fall for Big Tech’s false promises. It must tackle the root causes - unaccountable algorithms and a core business model based on invasive surveillance and profiling.”

Disinformation proliferating online

The heads of Facebook, Google and Twitter will testify to Congress later today over the companies’ role in the proliferation of misinformation online.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will face questioning from two Senate subcommittees and the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee during a virtual hearing - “Disinformation nation: social media’s role in promoting extremism and misinformation”.

The scrutiny comes after the companies were accused of failing to take action to stop the proliferation of misinformation during last year’s US election. Facebook has been accused of allowing groups linked to QAnon, boogaloo and militia movements to glorify violence in the weeks leading up to the violent scenes at the US Capitol in January.

Ahead of Facebook’s testimony today, the company’s Integrity VP Guy Rosen said in a blogpost that the company takes “a hard line” against disinformation and blocks millions of fake accounts daily. YouTube has said that its recommendation systems “do not proactively recommend” content that “comes close to - but doesn’t quite cross the line of - violating our Community Guidelines”. 

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