Social media platforms allow information to flow freely. Content creators and online influencers can use these sites to shift public opinion and spark polarization, no matter how credible they may be. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the dissemination of factual information—and the removal of misleading information that could cause harm—is more pressing than ever.
In this episode of Big Tech, co-hosts David Skok and Taylor Owen speak with Angie Drobnic Holan, editor-in-chief of PolitiFact, a fact-checking organization focused on reviewing statements made by political figures and rating them for accuracy. PolitiFact is part of Facebook’s fact-checking program, which reviews posts that have been flagged as potentially misleading and tries to limit the number of users who see misinformation.
Facebook is one of many platforms that have been criticized for hosting online extremism, fake news and disinformation. Platforms often say that the sheer number of new posts that appear on their sites every day make this problem difficult to solve. But as Drobnic Holan explains, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights just how much power social media platforms have when it comes to shaping the flow of information. “I am all in favour of freedom of speech and the first amendment. But I think false information is extraordinarily pernicious and it needs to be handled in a relatively aggressive manner,” she said. “It can’t just be left to say, ‘Oh, well, we hope people will find the right information eventually.’”