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Facebook's COVID Strategy: Promoting Accurate Information Vs. Attacking Misinformation

By Corinne Cardina and Nick Sciple - Mar 2, 2021 at 8:03AM

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The social media giant has a new campaign aimed at building trust in vaccines and taking down debunked health claims.

With more than 2.6 billion daily users, there's no denying that Facebook (FB 0.52%) reaches a lot of people around the world across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Building on its COVID-19 information center, the tech stock recently announced a big push to provide authoritative information about coronavirus vaccines. This new campaign will connect users with localized vaccine information, remove more vaccine misinformation from its platforms, and donate $120 million in ad credits to health agencies. 

Corinne Cardina, Fool.com's healthcare and cannabis bureau chief, spoke with Nick Sciple, the bureau chief of tech, energy, and industrials, on a Fool Live episode recorded Feb. 11, about how Facebook is handling the regulation of factual versus debunked health information on its platforms.

 

 

Corinne Cardina: Let's talk a little bit more about the pandemic. KX in the interview said, "misinformation thrives where credible information is lacking." I think that's true, but there are a lot of drivers of this information that are not going to be the target audience of the COVID-19 information center. There's a lot of users out there that they don't want what they view as mainstream information, what you and I might consider to be authoritative information. Plenty of Facebook and Instagram is public, but there's also this private groups and channels where radical echo chambers can live. What do you think about this focus on actively promoting accurate information versus and we'll talk a little bit more about the attacking misinformation. But do you think that it's a smart strategy?

Nick Sciple: I don't know. Like I said earlier, the courts are going to tell us what Facebook has to do. I think we all have different opinions personally around like OK, they should regulate this or not that or this should be allowed or what have you. I think at the end of the day, we're going to have lawmakers in courts. With these bright line rules are, and Facebook is going to abide by them. Past that, you're just going to get my own personal political opinion on whether they are doing things right.

Cardina: They're trying to legislate themselves a little bit. They have this Facebook oversight board that is looking at decisions that Facebook makes to take down content. The Facebook oversight board just published their first five decisions and they overruled Facebook's decision to take down post and four of those five decisions, including one about COVID-19. It was a post that basically said, "Hey, the French government has a cure for COVID and they're not sharing it." The oversight board said, "Hey, we're not going to police people's critiquing the government." I find that interesting. They're almost putting handcuffs on themselves in terms of what they're going to take down and when. I will also just mention briefly about the groups issue. In 2020, they did make a lot of progress regulating political groups, rightly or wrongly. Some people can say they didn't go far enough, but they were moved more than 1 million groups. They said on top of just removing groups, they also stopped recommending certain groups. My thought is, how are they going to treat those groups that are organizing around anti-vax thoughts? Is that something they're going to not actively recommend?

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