- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2020

Rep. Adam B. Schiff has asked Google, YouTube and Twitter to consider following Facebook protocol in alerting users who interacted on their platforms with misinformation involving the coronavirus pandemic.

The congressman’s office released letters Thursday that Mr. Schiff, the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote to the heads of the companies this week.

Citing the presence of coronavirus-related misinformation on their platforms, Mr. Schiff suggested the companies adopt a practice similar to Facebook and proactively notify users who engaged on their platforms with harmful medical content involving the continuing outbreak.

“As we face this public health crisis, Americans want and need to receive the best information possible so that they can keep themselves, their families and their communities healthy,” wrote Mr. Schiff, California Democrat.

“Though the best protection is removing or downgrading harmful content before users engage with it, that is not always possible,” Mr. Schiff wrote in the letters.

Facebook announced earlier this month that the company would alert users who engaged with misinformation posted on its platform about COVID-19 — the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus — that has since been removed from the social network. Facebook said those users would see messages referring to them about COVID-19 myths that have been debunked by the World Health Organization, and Mr. Schiff suggested the other internet companies do something similar.

“I recognize the complex challenges that misinformation presents to online platforms,” Mr. Schiff added. “As we all grapple with this unprecedented health situation, I hope you will consider this suggestion for keeping users better informed.”

The letters were dated Wednesday and sent to Sundar Pichai, the chief executive officer of Google’s parent company Alphabet, as well as YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and Twitter CEO Jason Dorsey.

A spokesperson for YouTube told The Washington Times that the platform has removed thousands of videos since February for violating its policies against COVID-19 misinformation, and a spokesperson for Twitter said the company received the congressman’s letter and is in regular contact with his staff about misinformation and other issues.

“Our work is ongoing, and we’re committed to providing timely and helpful information during this critical time,” the YouTube spokesperson told The Times.

Alphabet did not immediately return a message requesting comment.

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