According to a report from human rights group Avaaz, social media site Facebook has enabled 3.8 billion views of health misinformation during the past year. The websites sharing such content received 4 times more views on Facebook than content from reliable sources such as the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Avaaz analyzed data from 82 websites that spread fake news regarding cures for covid19, anti-vaccination campaigns, and articles falsely claiming that deaths related to covid19 are overcounted.
Public pages were used to share a significant amount of health misinformation, and among the pages spreading it, 42 of them were followed by more than 28 million people. The type of content included 8.4 million views on an article that claimed that a polio vaccination that made half a million children in India paralyzed was made by Bill gates, 2.4 million views on an article that claimed that quarantine is harming public health and 4.5 million on an article that contained false cures for deadly diseases.
The campaign director of Avaaz Fadi Quran said that facebook’s algorithm is a major threat to the public. He further said that Mark Zuckerberg promised that only reliable information will be provided during the pandemic but his algorithm is harming those efforts as it drives a significant number of facebook’s 2.7 billion users to health misinformation spreading networks. He believes that this false information business will make the pandemic even worse unless Facebook takes some steps to correct it.
Facebook insists that it is doing everything it can to combat the dangerous health misinformation being spread on the platform, however, there are thousands of individuals and groups that are spreading misinformation and Facebook is not intervening. A page spreading misinformation on Facebook is called ‘Natural Nurse in a toxic world’ and is run by Kate Shemirani. She was a nurse but the Nursing and Midwifery council canceled her nursing registration after there were complaints that she was spreading false information about covid19.
A glimpse into her twitter and Facebook profiles shows that she posts relentless attacks on the wearing of masks, Bill Gates, and healthcare staff, whom she calls liars and criminals for spreading coronavirus, which she calls a hoax. Much of her content was focused on vaccines. This week she claimed that polio vaccines actually caused polio and killed thousands of children.
Avaaz advised the social media network to provide fact-checked corrections to everyone who viewed health misinformation on the site. It also said that Facebook and Twitter should not sponsor this misinformation so that they can reach fewer people.
The chairman of the World Medical Association and a radiologist Prof Frank Ulrich Montgomery said that this pandemic has reminded us that how successful vaccines have been but anti-vaxxers are spreading toxic lies and conspiracies on Facebook. Dr. Joao Miguel Grenho, secretary-general of the European Union of Medical Specialists, said Mark Zuckerberg should take immediate action to stop this info-demic, otherwise, the number of people who are poisoned in their minds for not taking a vaccine will be too high for us to end this pandemic.