How Social Media Platforms Fight Misinformation

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Some of the biggest social media platforms have removed hundreds of thousands of posts over the past year as part of a wider initiative to tackle disinformation in Australia.

As Gizmodo Australia reported, a group of companies – including Meta, TikTok and Twitter – signed up to the Digital Industry Group’s (DIGI) voluntary code of conduct last year to combat the spread of misinformation online. Over the past few days, DIGI has released each company’s transparency report to show what steps have been taken since. What stood out was the amount of content that violated misinformation guidelines, leading to mass takedowns.

In terms of the numbers, last year alone Meta removed more than 180,000 health misinformation posts on Facebook and Instagram in Australia that were deemed to violate the company’s Community Standards. Globally, that figure was over 11 million. In the same time frame, TikTok removed over 12,000 videos relating to “Australian medical misinformation”, while Google removed over 5,000 YouTube videos uploaded from Australian IP addresses due to the provision of misleading information about COVID-19.

In comparison, Twitter removed far less local content. The company outlined the total number of local violations of its generic guidelines, with almost 40,000 Australian accounts “actioned” and just under 8,000 additional accounts suspended. Specifically regarding Twitter’s COVID-19 policy, only 35 Australian accounts have been suspended and 817 have received action. Twitter has removed just over 1,000 individual pieces of content from Australians for breaching its COVID-19 policy.

Microsoft is another participant in the DIGI Code of Practice and has actively removed LinkedIn content relating to misinformation in addition to fake accounts. Other companies that have recently released transparency reports outlining actions against misinformation include Adobe, Apple, and Redbubble. Gizmodo Australia has a handy summary of what each entity has done.

While it is encouraging to see action being taken against the spread of misinformation online, the discrepancy in numbers between different platforms is intriguing. Is Twitter’s relatively low number of content removals due to its smaller user base, different interpretation of guidelines, or some other reason? What will be interesting to see is the long-term impact of the voluntary code of practice and whether it will eventually become legislation.

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