Wednesday 11 March 2020 12:03 pm

Tech giants summoned to Downing Street in coronavirus crackdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has summoned major tech firms to Downing Street tonight as the government cracks down on misinformation about coronavirus.

Executives from all big social media companies are set to attend the Tech CEO Round Table, where they will be asked to commit “data, assets and expertise” to the fight against the outbreak.

Read more: New government cyber unit to grill social media firms over coronavirus fake news

The meeting, scheduled to take place at 7pm, will be chaired by the prime minister’s top adviser Dominic Cummings.

It is understood that a raft of British tech firms and industry bodies have also been invited to the meeting.

Senior ministers, scientific experts and No 10 advisers are set to join the meeting to brief internet companies on the government’s plan to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

They will ask tech giants to ensure the public is shown the most reliable coronavirus advice at the top of searches and to help crack down on fake news, a source told Buzzfeed News, which first reported the meeting.

Data analytics and modelling, targeting of vulnerable groups and removal of disinformation are thought to be among the assets that tech firms will be asked to contribute.

Earlier this week the government unveiled a new cyber team designed to crack down on the spreading of fake news linked to the coronavirus outbreak on social media platforms.

Departments across Whitehall have been brought in to identify and respond to disinformation related to the virus, also known as Covid-19.

A deal has already been struck between the NHS and tech giants to ensure official medical guidance is displayed at the top of internet searches.

Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram are all directing users to the NHS website if they search for coronavirus.

Read more: Budget: Chancellor says coronavirus will be ‘front and centre’ as PM wishes minister speedy recovery

The firms have also pledged to crack down on fake accounts — such as a Twitter account that posed as a hospital — and misleading claims about homeopathic treatments.

The tech round table will follow the Budget, where chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to outline a raft of fiscal measures designed to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

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