After President Biden fell hard on Facebook last week over misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine, the company responded with almost equal force, insisting without any precarious conditions that it was not responsible for spreading that kind of content on the web.
But a new survey released Tuesday suggests Facebook really remains a place where such misinformation circulates: Media Matters for America, a liberal technology surveillance organization, says it has found 284 active private and public Facebook groups currently distributing vaccine misinformation, more than double researchers found in April. Over half a million users belong to these groups.
Facebook could not be reached to immediately comment on the media findings.
Media Matters has identified six groups with more than 15,000 members, and most of those half-dozen groups are private, highlighting the ongoing problem of the social network. These groups are only invited, making them more difficult to monitor and a more fruitful basis for spreading misinformation than public ones calling for more immediate oversight.
The debate over Facebook’s role in dealing with vaccine misinformation intensified on Friday when President Biden made harsh comments about his views on the company’s guilt. “They’re killing people,” he said.
The White House has since tried to soften its stance on the issue, and Facebook has been racing to point out efforts to combat vaccine misinformation. In a blog post a day after President Biden’s comments, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president for impatience, said the platform had removed more than 18 million Covid-19 data since the pandemic began and limited the spread of 167 million pieces by its fact rated ladies inaccurate. More broadly, Facebook has introduced new tools for users who control Groups, although these features are as effective as they want group leaders to be.
Groups represent a huge path for Facebook’s growth – and a constant source of problems for it. Over the past few years, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has clearly highlighted the place of groups within the app, and the company has launched a redesign in 2019 to encourage their use. Even public groups tend to encourage more intimate and engaging conversations than on Facebook’s key Newsfeed, exactly what the company sought to encourage. But the Groups proved to be problematic hotspots, doing things like spreading Qanon content and posts for white supremacy.
The largest group identified by Media Matters is the one called “Canadian Deaths and Adverse Reaction,” which has nearly 95,000 users. Researchers have uncovered a number of revelations containing conspiracy theories, including one that falsely stated that vaccines are part of an ongoing experimental experiment. One user in another large group, Covid19 Vaccine Victims & Families, which has 46,4000 members, wrote this: “I really believe they are willing to kill people with this shot … I think it causes people who have health problems to have [sic] make it worse for those who do not have health problems, I think that this sting gives people diseases they have never had. People need to wake up and say no to the apple. “