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News > U.S.

FB-Meta: COVID-19 and Vaccines Misinformation Rampant: Report

  • NewsGuard Technologies found more than 500 websites publishing misinformation about COVID-19, including vaccines and treatments.

    NewsGuard Technologies found more than 500 websites publishing misinformation about COVID-19, including vaccines and treatments. | Photo: Twitter @3NewsNowOmaha

Published 2 November 2021

The giant media company Meta, formerly known as Facebook, was recently exposed by internal whistleblower, Frances Haugen, over practices of spreading harmful messages to maximize profits. Meta now faces a new wave of critical reviews after a new report reveals that the social media company allows the massive spread of misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines.

Facebook and Instagram allowed massive dissemination of skepticism about vaccines for the coronavirus and misinformation about the disease to spread across its platforms, a recent report by Newsguard, a credibility assessment website, has shown.


Former Facebook Employee Haugen Testifies Before Congress 

The Guardian recently reported on the report's findings, indicating that misleading COVID-19 and vaccines-related content was rampant over more than 370,000 accounts during the past year.

The misleading content and false news include posts in Facebook groups claiming that children are being "murdered by the experimental jab they're being pressured to take." They also found Instagram accounts that promoted a documentary by Andrew Wakefield, an embattled doctor who was struck off the UK medical register after suggesting that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism.

In total, Newsguard said it monitored some 20 sites since September last year, which had gained a total of 372,670 followers over this period of time. The monitor's report also included references to prominent anti-vaxxers and alternative medicine advocates, such as Robert F Kennedy Jr and Joseph Mercola.

Kennedy was banned from Instagram, but his Facebook page, along with Mercola's Instagram account, has gained more than 140,000 followers since February.

The full report, according to The Guardian, has been sent to the World Health Organization.

Alex Cadier, UK managing director for NewsGuard, damned Facebook and Instagram for failing to protect their users from harmful and misleading content. "The company's engagement-at-all-costs mantra means that viral and divisive sources of misinformation continue to flourish, despite warnings from NewsGuard and the clear danger posed to users," the Guardian quoted him as saying. "Facebook gave itself a new name, but their promotion of misinformation remains the same."

A spokesman for Meta (previously known as Facebook) said that the company was taking action against misinformation while promoting vaccination. Meta said it has "removed more than 20 million pieces of harmful misinformation" and "banned more than 3,000 accounts, pages, and groups for repeatedly breaking our rules."

Reacting to accusations pointing to the failure to control fake news and harmful content on its platform, Facebook announced this past October that it was changing its name to Meta. Mark Zuckerberg, the company's chief executive, said that the rebranding reflects the company's focus on the "metaverse," not just the social media platform.

Many observers, however, interpret the rebranding as an attempt to clear the social media platform's reputation. It suffered a massive wave of bad press after it was undermined by "The Facebook Papers," many stories by major news agencies based on the internal documents leaked by a former employee. Whistleblower Frances Haugen, who used to work for Facebook as a data analyst, even had a US Congress audience and appeared on national TV denouncing these practices.

"The Facebook Papers" shed light on how the social media platform would foster misinformation and harmful content in order to maximize profits. Zuckerberg, however, dismissed the stories as a coordinated attempt by news agencies and whistleblowers to create "a false image" of his company.

On October 29, Meta announced it would increase its support for COVID-19 vaccination efforts for children on its apps.

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