Legislating Against Misinformation

Legislating Against Misinformation

The links between misinformation and health have never been more pronounced as social media channels spread harmful inaccurate information about COVID-19 and the efficacy of vaccines.

With the expectation that online targeting systems used to promote content in social media feeds becoming ever-more sophisticated, is now the time to capture some urgency and action around how online platforms are legislated and managed, both within the UK but also internationally?

How misinformation is tackled by the government is of concern to all those working across health, care and wider public services who want to ensure that every person in every community has accurate information to make informed decisions about their health care and wellbeing.

At the recent PublicTechnology Cyber Security Summit, Julian Knight MP explained how marrying competition and legislation aspects together with online safety responsibility – whilst a complex mix – is the best way to approach this challenge. Drawing a comparison to the frameworks and systems already established around financial and legal services, he suggests that if we get it right, good regulation can also benefit business.

Over this past year several important reports and initiatives have paved the way towards a future code of conduct for social media platforms, including:

  • The publication of the Online Harms White Paper published December 2020 sets out plans for a new duty of care to make companies take responsibility for the safety of their users.        
  • Ofcom has been appointed as the regulator for online harms in the UK. They have taken on new responsibilities to protect children and vulnerable people when they are online, with an objective to give everybody greater confidence to enjoy the huge benefits of being online safely.
  • A new Digital Markets Unit has been set up within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)with a responsibility to enforce a new code to govern the behaviour of platforms that currently dominate the market, such as Google and Facebook, to ensure consumers and small businesses aren’t disadvantaged.

Regulation is at the heart of these changes – and whilst these new regulatory appointments are still in their infancy – we can be certain of a new era of more responsible actions to benefit citizens and consumers.

As health and care professionals seek to build trust with their patients about their health and care decisions, how these regulations play out will be of utmost interest over the coming months and years.

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