Google and Facebook urged to crack down on fake health news

Web giants are urged to improve results on vaccines

Monday, July 15, 2019

Damian Hinds has said technology companies have a “big responsibility” to curb the spread of health misinformation on the internet.

The Education Secretary told talkRADIO’s Alastair Stewart he is working Google and Facebook to establish “firm principles” about a “duty of care”.

“These companies have a big responsibility, particularly for children but actually towards adults as well,” he said.

“I do want to work with these companies but sometimes we also have to be very firm and put our foot down and say we want things to move more quickly than is happening at the moment.”

He said false information about vaccines is one of biggest concerns which will be addressed at a summit with Health Secretary Matt Hancock, today.

Referring to anti-vaccination videos on the internet he said: "We need to make sure that the first thing that parents are coming across is not something which is misleading.

“We are not talking about censorship but helping people to find their way to accurate information.”

Mr Hinds said search engines must ensure accurate health facts are published ahead of fringe theories and misinformation.

“When we talk about things like self-harm or eating disorders, or even children thinking about suicide, the most terrible of cases, we need to make sure that when people search for these things the very first thing they come across is something that’s going to help them.

“I’m very clear the trusted source of information in this country on healthcare is the National Health Service.”

From 2020, the Government is making health education - which includes content on physical and mental wellbeing - universally compulsory, alongside introducing compulsory relationships education for primary age pupils and relationships and sex education for secondary age pupils.

This will mean every child will learn about internet safety and harms alongside the importance of mental wellbeing, the DfE said.

The social media and mental health summit is a strategic partnership between Government and stakeholders who meet regularly on a range of issues that stem from internet usage.

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