UK MPs have flown to Washington DC this week to hold a fake news inquiry, the first House of Commons committee hearing to be broadcast outside the UK.
The MPs will be questioning representatives from the major tech companies, including Google, Facebook, and Twitter, on the spread of misinformation through social media.
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The committee has been criticised following news the US tech companies offered to fly their executives to London. Instead, the MPs refused the offer and decided to fly to the US instead.
In addition, in preliminary submissions for the committee, MPs have been warned against used the term “fake news”.
Claire Wardles, a research fellow at the Shorenstein Centre for Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School will be giving evidence today. She said:
“Language and terminology matters, and for that reason the term ‘fake news’ should not be used to discuss this phenomenon. When describing the complexity of information disorder, it is woefully inadequate.
“Neither the words ‘fake’ nor ‘news’ effectively capture this polluted information ecosystem.”
Who is attending the fake news inquiry?
There will be a number of representatives from the major social media companies present at today’s event.
From Google, the vice president of news, Richard Gringas and the global head of public policy, Juniper Downs, will be answering questions.
In written evidence submitted before the event, Google said it had been working to prevent the spread of disinformation across its platforms. For instance, it has been working with publishers to help them strengthen their subscription-based business models. In addition, it has improved investment in training for local newsrooms in the UK.
As well, Google says it has taken steps to tackle misinformation of YouTube, including the promotion of established news sources.
Facebook is sending its head of global policy management, Monika Bickert. In addition, its policy director for the UK, Middle East and Africa, Simon Milner, is also attending.
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The Twitter representatives include the director of public policy and philanthropy for the US and Canda, Carlos Monje. As well, Monje’s UK counterpart Nick Pickles will be attending too.
In addition, there will be representatives from some of the US’s major news organisations. This includes CBS News’ chief white house correspondent Major Garrett and the managing director of CNN International, Tony Maddox.
What does the hearing hope to achieve?
Damian Collins, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee, has been trying to put pressure on the tech giants to investigate the influence of fake news from Russia during the EU referendum campaign in 2016.
Last year, Facebook said only 73p had been spent on Russia ads during the two months before the Brexit vote. It then had to backtrack on this and open up investigations again.
Facebook said it was now investigation “coordinated activity around the Brexit referendum” carried out by suspected Russian clusters that were not identified previously.
The committee is using today’s meetings to understand the impact misinformation as on the public. In addition, the issue of whether companies are profiting from fake news through advertising will also come up.