Thursday, January 20

‘Desinfo Kills’: Protesters Demand Facebook Act to Stop Vaccine Falsehoods | Facebook

The activists will descend on Facebook’s Washington headquarters on Wednesday to demand that the company take stronger action against the falsehoods of vaccines that are spread on its platform.

Protesters plan to cover the lawn in front of Facebook’s office with body bags that say “disinformation kills” as a symbol of the damage caused by online disinformation, as Covid cases rise in the US.

The day of protest has been organized by a group of academics, advocates and activists who call themselves the “Royal” Oversight Board. The group is urging Facebook shareholders to ban so-called “super-spreaders” of misinformation, the small number of accounts responsible for most of the false and misleading content about Covid-19 vaccines.

“People are making decisions based on misinformation spreading on Facebook,” said Shireen Mitchell, a member of the Real Facebook Oversight Board and founder of Stop Online Violence Against Women. “If Facebook is not going to remove that, or if all they are going to do is post disclaimers, then fundamentally Facebook is also involved in these deaths.”

In coordination with the protest, the Royal Oversight Board has released a new report looking at the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation on Facebook during the company’s most recent financial quarter. The report and the outcry also come as Facebook prepares to announce its financial earnings for the same quarter.

The report refers to a March study by the Center for Fighting Digital Hate (CCDH) that found that a small group of accounts, known as the “dirty dozen,” is responsible for more than 73% of anti-vaccine content. on social media platforms, including Facebook. That report recently caught the attention of the White House, and Joe Biden has condemned Facebook and other tech companies for failing to take action.

Facebook banned misinformation about vaccines from the platform in February 2021, but critics say that many posts escape the platform’s filters and reach audiences in the millions without being removed.

It has also introduced a series of rules related specifically to Covid-19, prohibiting publications that question the severity of the disease, deny its existence or argue that the vaccine has more risks than the virus. Still, the Royal Oversight Board found that such content has often been able to stay on the platform and even reach the most shared posts.

According to the Royal Oversight Board report, a large part of the misinformation about Covid vaccines comes from a few prolific accounts and remains among the best performing and most widely shared content on the platform. It looked at the top 10 posts for each day of the week for the past quarter and found that most of them originated from just five identified “superpreaders” of misinformation.

“When it comes to Covid misinformation, the vast majority of content comes from an extremely small group of highly visible users, making it much easier to combat it than Facebook admits,” the board said, concluding that Facebook “continues. benefiting from hatred. ” and deadly misinformation ”.

The group has asked Facebook to remove users from the platform or modify its algorithm to disable engagement with the offending accounts. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but has stated in the past that it removed more than 18 million pieces of misinformation from Covid.

Congress has also taken note of the spread of vaccine misinformation on Facebook and other platforms, featuring Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar. presenting a bill that would target platforms whose algorithms promote health misinformation related to an “existing public health emergency”.

The bill, called the Health Disinformation Act, would remove the protections provided by Section 230 of the internet law, which prevents platforms from being sued for content posted by their users in such cases.

“For too long, online platforms have not done enough to protect the health of Americans,” Klobuchar said in a statement about the bill. “These are some of the largest and richest companies in the world, and they must do more to prevent the spread of misinformation about deadly vaccines.”

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