The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Select Committee’s visit to the US last month as part of its inquiry into fake news cost the taxpayer more than £84,000.
Eleven MPs visited New York and Washington DC between 5 and 9 February to continue its “serious and thorough investigation” into how disinformation is spread online.
The committee, chaired by Damian Collins MP, will address the definition of fake news and the impact it has on the public understanding of the world and the public response to traditional journalism.
The estimated cost of the visit to the US, revealed yesterday following a Freedom of Information request, was £69,535.
An additional £14,655 taken from a separate budget was spent on broadcasting costs as a one-day public evidence session was broadcast online live from Washington.
This brings the total to £84,190.
An oral evidence session, held at the George Washington University, saw MPs question representatives from Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, CBS News, CNN International and the New Media Alliance.
The visit also included private trips to meet representatives from Google, Now This media, CNN’s senior media correspondent Brian Stelter and The New York Times as part of the inquiry into fake news.
MPs met senators Richard Burr and Marc Warner, who lead the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, visited the Council on Foreign Relations, and were given a tour of Congress.
In a statement posted online yesterday, Collins said: “Fake news and the spread of misinformation is one of the most serious threats facing our democracy today, so it warrants serious and thorough investigation.
“The visit will help the Committee present the most informed policy recommendations and solutions to Government when we produce our report in the coming months.
“We also used the opportunity while we were there to meet with other US organisations who will help inform our other work such as our new inquiry on the social impact of culture and sport.
“The cost of this visit was approved in the normal method by the Liaison Committee, who sign off all Select Committee visits- just as they did with the other Select Committees who also visited the United States recently.
“Because of the nature of the topic we’re tackling, transparency, truth and communication, we broke with normal practice of select committee visits and decided to live broadcast the session so that people around the world could engage with its contents.
“In fact, these social media and tech companies rarely come up against such public scrutiny.”
The committee previously denied a report by Buzzfeed that MPs had turned down an offer from Google, Facebook and Twitter to fly their top executives to London instead.
In his statement this week, Collins said: “It was always agreed with these companies that they would provide witnesses to give evidence in the United States.”
Picture: Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration