“The suggestion that we have not committed resources to combat disinformation about Covid and support vaccine rollouts is simply not supported by the facts,” said Dani Lever, a Facebook spokeswoman. “With no standard definition for vaccine misinformation, and with both false and even real content (often shared by mainstream media) potentially discouraging vaccine adoption, we focus on the results — measuring whether people using Facebook, Covid-19- accept vaccines. ”
Executives at Facebook, including its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, have said the company has committed to removing disinformation about Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. The company said it had removed more than 18 million pieces of misinformation about Covid-19, though it did not specify what time frame.
Experts studying disinformation said the number of pieces Facebook removed was not as informative as the number uploaded to the site, or which groups and pages people saw spreading misinformation.
“They need to open the black box that is their content ranking and content amplification architecture. Take that black box and open it to scrutiny by independent researchers and the government,” said Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit organization. who wants to fight disinformation “We don’t know how many Americans are infected with misinformation.”
Ahmed’s group, which used publicly available data from CrowdTangle, a program owned by Facebook, found that 12 people were responsible for 65 percent of the misinformation about Covid-19 on Facebook. The White House, including Mr. Biden, has reiterated that figure for the past week. Facebook says it’s incorrect but hasn’t provided any details.
Renée DiResta, a disinformation researcher at Stanford’s Internet Observatory, called on Facebook to release more detailed data that would help experts understand how false claims about the vaccine affected specific communities in the country. The information, known as “prevalence data,” essentially looks at how pervasive a story is, such as what percentage of people in a community see the service.
“The reason more detailed prevalence data is needed is that false claims are not distributed equally among all audiences,” said Ms. DiResta. “To effectively counter specific false claims that communities see, civil society organizations and researchers need a better picture of what is happening within those groups.”