Pelosi calls on advertisers to pressure social media platforms over misinformation

Pelosi calls on advertisers to pressure social media platforms over misinformation
© Bonnie Cash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi, Schumer slam Trump executive orders, call for GOP to come back to negotiating table Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief MORE (D-Calif.) on Tuesday urged advertisers to pressure social media platforms to tackle misinformation more aggressively.

"Advertisers are in a position — they have power — to discourage platforms for amplifying dangerous and even life threatening disinformation," Pelosi said during a George Washington University forum focused on misinformation about the coronavirus on social media.

When asked whether advertisers should withdraw from social media companies or mount a public pressure campaign, Pelosi said they should do "a combination of both."

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Conspiracy theories and unfounded claims about the coronavirus, its origins and ways to combat it have surged online in step with the spread of the disease, causing what the World Health Organization has branded an “infodemic.”

While major social media platforms have taken steps to reduce the spread of misinformation, such as elevating information from trusted sources and limiting the spread of potentially harmful posts, critics have said those efforts fall short.

Pelosi emphasized Tuesday that business models are contributing to the problem.

"Social media executives are not only allowing the spread of disinformation on platforms, they program their algorithms to enhance their business model of capturing your time and attention meaning that they amplify the most inflammatory content, no matter how dangerous or false," she said.

Several advertisers in recent weeks have pulled back on Facebook advertising in particular because of the company's hands-off approach to political speech.

The platform has come under increasing internal and external pressure to take action against President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE's posts in particular, especially ones seen as glorifying violence. Twitter and other social media platforms have decided to flag those posts.

Facebook generates 98 percent of its revenue through ads.