Coronavirus misinformation on social media has resulted in people injecting themselves with bleach, a senior MP has revealed as he urged the Government to bring forward the Duty of Care Bill.
Julian Knight, the chairman of Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, warned that if online fake news was not tackled it could affect the take-up of an eventual coronavirus vaccine, causing “very great harm to society”.
Mr Knight said he wanted to see Ofcom named as the new online regulator and given powers to fine or even prosecute social media companies, as well as the resources to investigate the secretive algorithms tech companies use to determine what their users see.
His comments came as the culture committee released a report saying the UK’s lack of online regulation had allowed coronavirus misinformation to spread “virulently” on social media.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Knight said: “Healthcare professionals told us they even saw people injecting themselves with bleach or taking liquids that were harmful.
“They also said that on a more subtle level – but probably even more damaging in terms of numbers – many people were not presenting at hospital because they had seen misinformation and disinformation out there that was effectively saying that hospitals were completely overwhelmed and unsafe places.”