Posted: Thu 22nd Oct 2020

Health Minister calls on social media companies to take responsibility for false information on coronavirus

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 22nd, 2020

Wales’ Health Minister has urged people to be more cautious over what they share on social media after one widely spread tweet about the coronavirus was debunked by a health board in South Wales.

The tweet, which can be seen below, has received a significant number of likes and retweets on Twitter.

However, no action has been taken by the social media firm.

The South Wales Argus debunked the tweet, quoting Aneurin Bevan Health Board who said: “Our hospitals are currently incredible busy and we can confirm that the information in this tweet is incorrect.

“Nevill Hall Hospital has 260 beds, which are fully utilised. One ward was closed last week for deep cleaning but this has now reopened.”

The contents of the tweet were raised in the Senedd during a debate on coronavirus on Tuesday.

Alun Davies MS said: “All too often in this debate, we’ve seen people who call themselves public representatives – although the public wouldn’t recognise them – playing with false information, playing with fake news, putting things on social media, not only not knowing if it’s true, but they can be pretty sure it’s not true.

“Two and a half thousand people today retweeted a lie about Nevill Hall Hospital, saying it’s empty, with doctors playing golf.

“The sort of information that’s going round our communities and our societies at the moment is really dangerous and it is going to cost people their lives.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford said later in the debate: “Alun Davies said that there is a lot of nonsense talked by some about coronavirus, but it’s not just nonsense it’s dangerous nonsense.”

Twitter has recently started taking action on some content on the social media platform and now regularly decides to fully remove, hide from direct view, or place ‘unsubstantiated’ warnings on tweets that they deem as requiring it

The labels have most notably been used on tweets posted by US President Donald Trump.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething was yesterday asked if Welsh Government had held discussions with social media networks.

In light of the false tweet with a comparatively huge audience, North.Wales also asked if there had been any contact from Twitter UK on why they have judged it not necessary to take any action on such content.

The minister said: “People who put false stories on the social media are the first point in taking responsibility. People who run those platforms, who profit from those platforms also need to have a share of responsibility.

“All of us need to look again at the position that we’re in because I’m afraid that we’ll see infection rates continue to rise.

“I’m afraid we’re going to see death rates continue to rise, and that underpins the moment that we’re in, and why the Welsh Government is taking this choice with a fire break to help keep Wales safe.

“All of us need to understand that, because whether you like me or other politicians or not, the virus doesn’t care about that. It just isn’t interested, that isn’t its point and purpose.

“All of us need to think about what we’re doing as we’re acting on social media, with our friends and our family, think how can we do things to help keep our friends and family safe?”

The South Wales Argus also referenced the tweet, and asked Mr Gething how frustrated he was when he sees people ‘disregarding the seriousness of coronavirus’.

The Minister replied: “It is incredibly frustrating to see direct lies being told about what’s in place within our health service.

“Our health services are under significant pressure, our staff in the health service who can see what’s already coming through their doors in primary care and in our hospital based system as well.”

Public Health Wales recently asked people to be cautious about what they share online.

In a statement PHW said: “It is ‘completely incorrect’ to say Covid tests generate positives for flu or common cold”.

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