Facebook Slow-Walked Misinformation Response

As misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines swarmed social media last March, Facebook employees came up with effective ways to downplay misleading posts.
 
The efforts pushed misinformation down in people’s news feeds and boosted reliable information, AP reports. A test with 6,000 users in 4 countries found:

  • A ~12% decrease in false content

  • An 8% increase in information from the WHO or US CDC


1 employee assumed the approach would be deployed immediately. Instead, the company didn’t act on some of the suggestions and delayed others for a month.
 
Why? Because profits, explained Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. Engagement “drives attention and attention equals eyeballs and eyeballs equal ad revenue,” Ahmed said.
 
Facebook responds: The company said it has made “considerable progress” in downgrading vaccine misinformation in users’ feeds.
 
The insights are from the “Facebook Papers” obtained by a consortium of news organizations.
 
When the algorithm’s against you: “I've tried to engage with Facebook groups to counter vaccine mis/disinformation, but have ultimately concluded it's like trying to use bubble gum to plug a bursting dam. The information ecosystem has too much poison for public health to combat on its own,” tweeted Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

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