Between April and June 2020, Facebook removed seven million posts about the coronavirus for what it deemed to be “harmful” information about the coronavirus. This is on top of putting warning labels on 98 million posts across both Facebook and Instagram during the second quarter of 2020 for containing “misleading” coronavirus misinformation.
Most of the posts censored by Facebook only had warning labels applied to them. However, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously revealed that those labels have almost the same effect as removing the posts. He confirmed that the warnings dissuade users from clicking through to content 95 percent of the time.
Facebook’s claims of fighting against “misleading” and “harmful” coronavirus information are put in doubt by how it tends to favor certain points of view.
The release of the statistics follows Zuckerberg came out strongly against the drug hydroxychloroquine during a House Judiciary Committee hearing last month. During the hearing, Zuckerberg vowed to take down any posts supporting hydroxychloroquine’s use for treating COVID-19.
“We do not want to become the arbiters of truth. I think that would be a bad position for us to be in and not what we should be doing,” the Facebook CEO said during the hearing. “But on specific claims, if someone is going to go out and say that hydroxychloroquine is proven to cure COVID, when in fact it has not been proven to cure COVID, and that that statement could lead people to take a drug that in some cases, some of the data suggests that it might be harmful to people, we think that we should take that down.”
When he was challenged by Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who suggested that the decision to use the medicine should be down to patients and their doctors, Zuckerberg insisted that Facebook would be making the final ruling, regardless of some doctors’ opinions on the matter.
In their quest to supposedly remove “misinformation” about the coronavirus, Facebook and other social media platforms have at times come up against the doctors who’re on the frontlines of the fight against the virus.
In July, Facebook removed a video of a Washington press conference held by America’s Frontline Doctors, a group founded by Dr. Simone Gold, a board-certified physician and attorney, and made up of medical doctors. The group held the event to address what they called a “massive disinformation campaign” about the coronavirus.
When asked by New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose on Twitter about the video, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said that the company removed it for “sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19.”
In a follow-up tweet, Stone added that Facebook would direct users who had interacted with the video post to information on “myths debunked” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Also, one other thing to note. We’re showing messages in News Feed to people who have reacted to, commented on or shared harmful COVID-19-related misinformation that we have removed, connecting them to myths debunked by the WHO,” he wrote.
Facebook’s reliance on the WHO, however, is problematic. The organization has been under scrutiny for the influence China seems to have over it.
Over the course of the ongoing pandemic, some of the WHO’s actions seemed to have been geared more towards covering up China’s role in the virus’ spread. This even prompted Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro to dub the WHO as the “Chinese Health Organization.”
Perhaps the most glaring example of the WHO’s China bias is its exclusion of Taiwan, even though the island nation has been largely successful in dealing with the coronavirus. (Related: World Health Organization (WHO) forced to release statement after awkward Taiwan interview.)
The U.S. is already withdrawing from the WHO, and in turn, signed a health agreement with Taiwan.
The question now is why Facebook is still reliant on an organization whose credibility is in doubt as a resource for which to label coronavirus-related news as “misleading.”
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