A Report too Cumbersome for Facebook Kept Secret

Facebook covered up a report which showed that the most viewed link on the platform in the United States in the first quarter of 2021 was a press headline suggesting a correlation between an anti-Covid vaccine and the death of a doctor in Florida, according to a New York Times article appeared on Friday.

This report was initially to be released but senior officials of the Californian group have chosen to put it aside “for fear that this will give a bad image of the company”, writes the American daily, relying on internal emails. The revelation falls badly for the giant of social networks, which regularly denies contributing to the spread of disinformation, in particular around the pandemic and vaccines.

“We considered releasing the (first quarter) report earlier this year but as we knew the attention it would receive, (…) we wanted to make repairs to the system,” a spokesperson commented. from Facebook.

On Wednesday, Facebook first released the report titled “Most Viewed Content: What People See on Facebook” … but for the second quarter. A crossword puzzle, YouTube and Unicef top the categories.

Medical misinformation
“This effort (…) is a key element of our deep commitment to transparency,” said Anna Stepanov, a Facebook product director, during a press conference call. She said the group would now publish this report on a quarterly basis, in addition to the statistics that the group has become accustomed to providing on content moderation.

The most viewed link in the first quarter was to a Chicago Tribune article titled “Healthy Doctor Dies Two Weeks After Received Covid-19 Vaccine; CDC Investigates.” The CDC, Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, is the country’s main federal public health agency. This title had been seen by nearly 54 million Facebook accounts in the United States.

The debate over medical disinformation has grown to such proportions that in July, Joe Biden estimated that Facebook and other platforms were “killing” people by letting circulate false information about the Covid-19 vaccination. The response from Mark Zuckerberg’s group was scathing: “The facts show that Facebook helps save lives, period.” The American president then qualified his remarks.