In recent months Facebook has claimed not once, but multiple times, that it is attempting to curb the spread of any misinformation on its platform. However, that didn’t stop the Biden government in the US from holding it accountable for the consistent growth of anti-vaxx sentiments among the masses. As per a report by The Soapbox, the wrath of the White House, including the POTUS himself, are not unfounded, since apparently, Facebook is poised to facilitate the spread of anti-vaxx misinformation.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has called “technology platforms” out for not doing anything to curb erroneous information from spreading, and Jen Psaki, Press Secretary to the White House, has claimed that only more stringent policies pertaining to social media can generate a consistency among different platforms and their stance towards misinformation. Meanwhile, the White House too, said social giants like Facebook Inc. “are withholding information on what the rules are,” thereby putting many lives at risk. In fact, President Joe Biden himself said that Facebook is “killing people” due to its lack of action on the issue.
Not only this, but Psaki has also gone on to reprimand the platform for being slow in taking down posts which are in violation of its policies against misinformation. Adding that “information spreads too quickly,” she further asserted that Facebook allows posts to remain up even if they are in clear contravention of its rules.
While the company claims to already have gotten rid of as many as 18 million pieces of information pertaining to the COVID, the White House has still been pushing it to be quicker. Chief of Staff Ron Klain has said that he has personally approached FB CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the issue, but to date, there seems to be no solid steps taken to curb the menace.
A Double-Bladed Sword
While these concerns might not completely be misplaced, they sure have given conservatives, including the likes of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, the chance to throw shade at the administration, alleging that Facebook is being made to “censor posts and information deemed verboten.”
At the same time, The Wall Street Journal reports that even though the White House has been holding meetings with social media companies including Facebook, in reality, the Mark Zuckerburg-led platform and the US powers are in direct disagreement on the issue of medical misinformation, and there seem to be no signs of reconciliation.
A Refuge for Political Propaganda
This is not the first time that Facebook Inc. has found itself in a soup about its treatment of problematic, and potentially dangerous, sentiments, and apparently, the only one to blame is the company itself. While its content moderation policy has definitely come across as too harsh on one to many occasions, one cannot deny the fact that its response to the spread of incorrect information about the COVID and its vaccines, has been lukewarm at best. The report claims that the very design of Facebook is such as to promote the “funneling” of such messages to as many people as possible.
In fact, many people seem to be aware of this inherent flaw, and are using it to their benefit, and getting others to follow their (allegedly) political propaganda by spreading intentional disinformation. A widely popular study claims that almost 65% of the vaccine misinformation on the platform is the doing of barely 12 people. Moreover, it is also claimed that most of the COVID-related posts on the platform contain anti-vaxx messages.
The Real Facebook Oversight Board, an advocacy organization poised towards critiquing Facebook, said in a statement that the reason why the platform has a “Covid disinformation problem” is because of its alleged links to the “right wing extremism.” This might explain why the disinformation/misinformation campaign is especially irksome to the US government, even as it grapples to clamp down on the efforts of the so-called “right wing” to spread anti-vaxx sentiments.
Meanwhile, the platform has not shied away from hitting back at the accusations made by the White House. In a blog post, Facebook executive Guy Rosen bluntly said that even though FB was not “the reason why (Biden’s July 4 vaccination) goal was missed,” the government has been trying to pin the blame on a “handful of American social media companies.”
The Bottom Line
To sum up, while the company has been rather quick to rebut the allegations that Facebook is poised to facilitate the spread of anti-vaxx misinformation, one cannot turn a blind eye to the problem that’s persisting, and sadly, metastasizing. Maybe it is time that Facebook sets its priorities straight.