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Fake news may spell ‘beginning of the end’ for social media

WARNING: Social media companies could face a difficult future

A MEDIA expert has warned that fake news could spell “the beginning of the end” for social media.

Damian Tambini, director of the London School of Economics’ media policy project said that companies like Facebook and Twitter risk tough sanctions in the UK for failing to produce evidence of disinformation.

He told The Times that unless there is a clampdown on social media companies’ indiscriminate power over users’ data, “it may be that this is the beginning of the end for these firms.” 

Tambini said: “They have to face up to the fact 
they’re coming up against existential problems in liberal democracies.

“They should clarify the principles behind how their algorithms rank news, because when they tweak them they effectively become something between an editor and a censor.”

He warned that governments should act to make the social media giants as liable as publishers.

The warning comes as Facebook and Twitter risk sanctions for failing to produce any evidence as part of a parliamentary investigation into fake news and alleged Russian interference in elections in the EU and US.

Damian Collins, the Conservative chairman of the Commons culture select committee, said Twitter’s response to the inquiry has been “completely inadequate” when the firm revealed there is no evidence of Russian interference in the Brexit referendum.

Collins called for scrutinizing procedures which enable authorities to verify whether companies like Facebook are efficiently identifying sources of information.

The companies could face sanctions if they fail to hand over information before January 18 about alleged Russian interference, Collins said.

Facebook, Google and Twitter claim they take the problem of fake news seriously and have invested in initiatives to tackle it. They added artificial intelligence and moderators are taking care of moderating dangerous content.

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