Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sidestepped a question Thursday about coronavirus vaccine misinformation on the social network, choosing to express the problem primarily as a “vaccine vacillation” among the American public.
In a interview With CBS, which launched Thursday morning, TV host Gayle King pressured Zuckerberg to release information on how many people have seen and shared Facebook posts that contain misinformation about the Covid vaccine.
Zuckerberg said Facebook has removed more than 18 million posts containing misinformation from its website, but did not respond when pressed by King on how many people viewed or shared these posts.
He deflected the question to focus on so-called vaccine insights, promoting the platform’s vaccine search tool that he said has led millions to take their first steps to get vaccinated.
He said much of the disinformation conversation is actually about “vaccine hesitation” and that the content should not be banned.
“I think, to some extent, there are also different definitions that people have about what disinformation is,” he said. “Many of the things that are really most difficult for us to address are not what I would call ‘misinformation’, but another category that I would call ‘hesitation.’
He attributed questions about which vaccine is safe or which vaccine is effective to the category of “vaccine hesitancy,” which he said is “a big part” of the entire conversation.
“That is not misinformation, but it is certainly contributing to an environment where people are asking questions about vaccine safety,” he added. “I don’t think we should ban it.”
Facebook has been accused of perpetuating and allowing misinformation about the pandemic and the vaccine to proliferate on its platform.
In July, Joe Biden said that social media platforms like Facebook are “killing people” for it.
The White House has also targeted a handful of accounts called the “misinformation dozen” – Facebook accounts that have been shown to be responsible for most of the vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.
Thursday’s developments came as the Federal Trade Commission filed an amended complaint in federal court to pursue its claims against Facebook, saying the online platform maintains monopoly power.
The complaint filed is a partially redacted version, which the FTC has requested must be sealed for 10 days.
The FTC said Facebook since 2011 “has had monopoly power in the United States with respect to personal social media.”
While Facebook continues to defend itself and cites account numbers and posts it has removed, disinformation experts have pointed out that people like Robert F Kennedy Jr, a staunch anti-vaccine activist, may remain on the platform.
A Northwestern University to study published in July stated that the vaccination rate among those who used only Facebook as a source of information is 40% lower than for those who use multiple sources to obtain information on Covid-19.
Facebook told Guardian US on Thursday that it has 20 million posts deleted containing erroneous information about the pandemic and closed 3,000 accounts, pages and groups for their content between the beginning of the pandemic and June.
Zuckerberg and King also talked about Facebook launch of a virtual workspace that offers its users numerous options, from changing conference rooms to setting up the presentation, as well as creating their own avatars.
The “work rooms of the horizon” is a app it was based on his idea of a “metaverse” which, according to him, is a version of the Internet in which “we can be in”.
Users can use hand gestures to interact with colleagues, move around their virtual space as if they were in an office, and sit around the table as if they were in a 3D meeting room in person.
Users must purchase a special VR headset to pair with the app.
Reuters contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism