ARROGANT social media giants were last night told to tackle the explosion in fake news or see their way of working destroyed.
A top academic said 2018 could be the “beginning of the end” for the likes of Facebook and Google unless they act.
Dr Damian Tambini, director of the London School of Economics’ media policy unit, said social media giants had been able to “enjoy” the ability to shift public opinion without facing up to any of the restrictions faced by traditional publishers.
But he said they now had to “open up or break up”.
He said: “For these super-giant companies it’s got very serious now.
“They should at least clarify the principles behind how their algorithms rank news, because when they tweak it they effectively become something between an editor and a censor, particularly given their monopoly position.
“They have enjoyed this ability to use our data, our content, our innovation, to create huge businesses and we have given them a shield from a lot of the risks.”
He told the Press Association: “So essentially we made them – is this the year that we begin unmaking them?”
The blast comes amid a growing clamour for action by firms such as Facebook since the US Presidential Election a year ago to stop their platforms being abused by people posting “fake news” to distort public opinion.
Facebook shareholders this summer urged founder Mark Zuckerberg to produce an annual report to detail what it is doing to stamp it out.
The company recently announced it would stop displaying ‘flag’ warnings next to suspected fake news stories on its site – as research suggested it would have little affect and may draw users towards them.
Earlier this week the giant was found to have boasted how it helped the Scottish National Party “achieve an overwhelming victory” north of the border in the 2015 General Election.
It is using the result – when Nicola Sturgeon’s party took 56 out of 59 seats – as an example of a “success story” in a bid to sell online ads.
Powerful Tory MP Damian Collins last week panned Twitter for its “completely inadequate” response into his Commons Committee’s probe into how ‘fake news’ may have affected the outcome of the EU Referendum.
He told the Sun: “This issue is not going to go away and the scrutiny is only going to get greater.
“I’m not sure the public even understand the extent to which fake news is such an issue.
“These companies have to act.”
RISE OF BOGUS REPORTS
DONALD Trump first made the phrase “fake news” reverberate around as he laid into claims about him during the 2016 US Presidential election.
Its use is now so prolific it was included in the Collins Dictionary Words of The Year 2017.
Those accused of spreading fake news include left-wing website The Canary.
It claimed the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg could address the Tory party conference in October.
The BBC was forced to announce that Laura would not be speaking at the event and was merely going to report on the conference.
Russian fake news trolls were thought to be responsible for a tweet targeting a woman in a hijab seen speaking on her mobile phone while apparently walking past a victim of the Westminster Bridge terror attack.
It turned out the woman was phoning her family to tell them she was safe.