How Facebook continues to let antivax content thrive on its platforms

Already in turmoil since the revelations of whistleblower Frances Haugen, Facebook is once again singled out for letting fake news spread about vaccination, despite numerous alerts. Twenty accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and Instagram spreading fake news about Covid-19 and vaccines have been able to thrive on the platforms, gaining a total of more than 370,000 new subscribers or members over the past year, indicates a report produced by the NewsGuard organization, which specializes in pre-bunking.

“We sent to the World Health Organization (WHO) – as part of our partnership – a report on the super-propagators of vaccine infoxes, on the Facebook and Instagram platforms [qui appartiennent au même groupe]. It turns out that 20 of these accounts, pages and groups have won, between them all, tens of thousands of subscribers, with little or no action having been taken by the technology giant, ”explained to 20 Minutes Chine Labbé, editor-in-chief Europe of NewsGuard, who has developed an Internet browser extension that allows you to analyze the reliability of news sources.

FranceSoir.fr’s Instagram account saw its number of subscribers almost double

Among the accounts reported are very large infox providers connected to sites rated as unreliable by NewsGuard, such as Children’s Health Defense, which saw its number of subscribers climb 65% on Instagram between February and October 2021 (272,000 subscribers). ), the pages of the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), followed by more than 50,000 subscribers on Facebook (an increase of 20% since February), or the account of Doctor Joseph Mercola, including the number of subscribers on Instagram ( 393,000) has increased by 40% this year.

“These 20 accounts are based in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, but also in France, and the problem is not limited to English language accounts. The Instagram account of FranceSoir.fr, a site that regularly shares false information on vaccines, has seen its number of subscribers almost double, from 8,982 in April 2021 to 16,500 in October 2021 ”, indicates Alex Cadier, one of the authors of the report.

Facebook has not developed “sufficient tools” to fight against infox

Among the posts published in these Facebook groups, some claimed that the children were being “murdered by the experimental injection that they are being pushed to do,” pages claimed that the risks of the anti-Covid-19 vaccine are “endless and unrecognized” and Instagram pages have suggested that vaccines are poison. None of these examples have been verified by Facebook or Instagram, which do not provide their users with a rating of the reliability of news and current affairs sources.

“By refraining from providing its users with information on the reliability of the sources shared and recommended on its platform, Facebook has done nothing to give users the means to learn about the reliability of the information disseminated in their feeds. ‘news or in Facebook groups,’ notes NewsGuard. “Facebook could put in place various constructive initiatives and go beyond the little transparent and visibly inconsistent measure of simply censoring them by deleting their accounts. It could mean fact-checking posts, or adding warnings to alert users, ”the organization adds.

Facebook “kills people”

Internal documents, recently revealed by whistleblower Frances Haugen, confirm the company’s significant shortcomings in tackling anti-ax publications. As noted
The world, an English-speaking message associating Covid-19 vaccines with an experiment, was not taken into account by the platform’s artificial intelligence, which mistakenly interpreted it as a publication written in Romanian. The Californian giant would also have quickly noticed that a large part of the antivax messages – in the form of comments in particular – escaped its algorithms. In February, internal research even showed that 60% of comments related to publications about vaccination came from antivax.

This is not the first time that Mark Zuckerberg’s group has been singled out for not having made enough effort regarding disinformation on Covid-19 vaccines. Last July, while the vaccination campaign was slowing in the United States, the American president himself lambasted the social network, denouncing serious shortcomings in his moderation tools against false information. “Facebook is killing people. The only pandemic we have is affecting people who are not vaccinated. They kill people, ”Joe Biden said at the time.