Warning against online censorship of scientific misinformation
Governments and social media platforms should not rely on content removal to tackle harmful scientific misinformation online, according to a report released today by the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of sciences.
But the Online Information Environment Report, created by a task force of leading researchers including computing, internet and media experts from Oxford, recommends sweeping measures. scale to build resilience to disinformation and a healthy online information environment.
Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, professor of computer science at Oxford, one of the members of the task force, says: “The internet has been one of mankind’s greatest innovations. The knowledge and information it supports and disseminates are some of our greatest resources.
But, he says, “We face a torrent of disinformation on topics large and small. The report reviews the challenges of disinformation and the steps we can take to address them. It does not call for content removal as a panacea, it instead recommends a range of actions that governments, tech platforms and academic institutions can implement – recommendations that build resilience to misinformation and promote a healthy online environment.”
Professor Gina Neff, another member of the task force and professor of technology and society at the Oxford Internet Institute, adds: “Scientific misinformation does not just affect individuals, it can harm society and even generations. future if allowed to spread unchecked. Our poll showed that people have complex reasons for sharing misinformation, and we won’t change that by giving them more facts.”
Meanwhile, Professor Michael Bronstein, professor of artificial intelligence at Oxford Deep Mind and a member of the working group, points out that “members of the public often lack the tools to distinguish authoritative from fictional sources and tend to view science as absolute ‘truth’ rather than an ever-changing picture, and therefore fall victim to both honest error and misinterpretation of scientific findings as well as intentional manipulation.”
Professor Rasmus Kleis Neilson, of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, concludes: “Many citizens [would have] their worst suspicions confirmed” if access to information was restricted, even if it is misinformation.
The task force report recommends a range of actions for policymakers, online platforms and others to understand and limit the harms of misinformation, including:
- Support media plurality and independent fact-checking.
- Monitor and mitigate evolving sources of scientific misinformation online.
- Invest in lifelong information literacy.
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Provided by Oxford University
Quote: Caution Against Online Censorship of Scientific Misinformation (January 20, 2022) Retrieved January 20, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-01-caution-online-censorship-scientific-misinformation.html
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