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article imageUK environment secretary attacks 'corrupting' social media

By James Walker     Nov 24, 2017 in Technology
UK environment secretary Michael Gove has attacked the "distorting" impact of social media after a fierce row over the UK Parliament's handling of animal welfare issues. Gove said social media is "corrupting" news reporting, leaving people misinformed.
Last week, UK MPs voted against incorporating part of an EU treaty recognising that animals can feel emotions into the EU Withdrawal Bill. It means that after Brexit, the UK will not recognise the existence of animal feelings, such as pain and suffering, in the same way as EU countries. Ministers argued that UK law already provides similar protections to animals but the decision sparked an outpouring of protest on social media.
"Corrupting and distorting"
In some cases, the posts made on digital platforms such as Facebook and Twitter contained incorrect facts or made false representations of the actual events. In comments made today, Gove criticised social media's role as a way of sharing news, telling the BBC it helped to "corrupt and distort" the actual meaning of the Commons vote.
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Gove suggested that social media is taking over from professional reporting as the accepted source of truth, despite many posts on the platforms being misinformed. Several high-profile entertainment stars and animal rights activists shared posts from campaigns that directly criticised government ministers, using information that has since been accepted as false. Gove called on web users to "stand up" against online platforms and share "authentic" reporting instead.
"There is an unhappy tendency now for people to believe that the raw and authentic voice of what's shared on social media is more reliable than what is said in Hansard or on the BBC," Gove said to BBC Radio 4's Today program. "We've also got to stand up against the way in which social media corrupts and distorts both reporting and decision making… it's important that all of us do that."
Fake news
The debate will add to the growing challenges for social media companies. Facebook, Twitter and Google are coming under increasing pressure from governments, privacy groups and users because of the prevalence of misinformation and fake news on their platforms. Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke out on the issue, criticising the use of social media "to divide and manipulate people."
The rise of social media has made it easier than ever for people to share their views to a wide audience and access a varied range of viewpoints. Several platforms are now attracting controversy for not doing more to protect the truth though, a problem which erodes the credibility of the content they harbour. Gove said social media allowed people to "unfairly" represent the UK government's position. He advised users not to treat posts from individuals in the same way as media reports.
More about fake news, Social media, News, Animal welfare