Moderate Powerful Figures Online Like Donald Trump, Experts Tell MPs

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Powerful influencers like Donald Trump should be moderated on social media platforms, experts have told MPs.

Dr Stephanie Alice Baker, senior lecturer in sociology at City University of London, warned that there was a “correlation” between what political influencers say and the actions of their followers.

The former US president infamously defended the use of malaria medication hydroxychloroquine to ward off coronavirus - in advice that contradicted his own public health officials.

He was eventually permanently banned from Twitter in January after he voiced support for rioters who stormed the US Capitol.

Dr Baker’s comments were made during a hearing in front of the Commons’ digital, culture, media and sport committee into the role of influencers in radicalisation and disinformation online.

She said public figures should be monitored because of their potential audience reach and capacity to impact, adding: “There was discussions then just about Donald Trump and so often with influencers, we can tell you so much as researchers about how mis and disinformation spread. But what we can’t always tell you is the impact of that, what happens offline.

“However, what I would say about Donald Trump, especially with regard to his messaging during the pandemic, is that there have been several noteworthy studies that have looked at the correlation between his advice say about hydroxychloroquine and prescriptions around the same period.

“What you can see there, is that while we can’t necessarily make a causal link, there is a correlation between what I would term political influencers are saying online and encouraging their followers to act on and what is actually occurring in the real world.”

She made the comments in response to a question from Labour MP Kevin Bannon who asked if public figures should be moderated differently on social media platforms.

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