Meta oversight board member urges actions against fake news on WhatsApp

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Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a Meta oversight board member, has urged the tech giant to take further steps to stop the spread of false information on WhatsApp.

Thorning-Schmidt, a former prime minister of Denmark and member of Meta’s oversight board, made the call during an H/Advisors session in Davos, Switzerland while speaking on the dangers of social media and AI for democracy on January 17, 2024.

H/Advisors is a global strategic advisory group for cross-border communications and based in England.

“Of course, Meta has a responsibility to keep check on [WhatsApp] groups. They have a responsibility to make sure there’s not loads of misinformation and disinformation on those groups. If we’re not responsible, regulation will act,” she stated.

William Lewis, CEO of The Washington Post, expressed similar worries about social media and artificial intelligence as threats to democracy, highlighting the need for immediate action in light of state-sponsored misinformation.

“The threat is very significant, the longer we delay doing something about it, the worse it gets. It’s not coming, it’s here. It’s going to take a multi-level effort from all elements of society to fight back. If we don’t, there’s a significant threat to the health, well-being, and presence of democracy, discourse, debate, and the ability to have freedom of thought in societies around the world,” Lewis said.

Although social media and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to be beneficial as well as harmful, Thorning-Schmidt recognized that these platforms have a significant workload.

“If we say everything that’s not true is not permissible on the platform – then we are going down the wrong path. Is this content misinformation or disinformation, and is it causing real, live harm? It’s very difficult to find out. Sometimes, they get a little bit guided by governments about what content should be removed — we need transparency from the companies,” she noted.

Thorning-Schmidt underlined the need for greater examination while discussing the roles played by governments and public actors, adding that public actors are subject to a higher degree of scrutiny than others.

She did, however, emphasize that total government control over social media companies might not be the solution.

Moderated by H/Advisors co-CEO, Neil Bennett, the session also highlighted the changing landscape of information consumption.

Fact-checker at The FactheckHub | [email protected] | + posts

Seasoned fact-checker and researcher Fatimah Quadri has written numerous fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy pieces for The FactCheckHub in an effort to combat information disorder. She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected].

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