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REPORT: Facebook overrun by COVID vaccine disinformation despite denying fueling hesitancy

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According to a new Wall Street Journal report, anti-vaccine activists flooded Facebook to sow doubt about the COVID-19 vaccines, overwhelming efforts to stop them, even as the company told the world that it was not responsible for vaccine hesitancy.

According to one document obtained by the newspaper, of the approximately 150,000 users posting in Facebook Groups disabled for spreading Covid-19 misinformation, 5% produced half of the posts, and 1,400 invited half of the new members.

According to USA TODAY, the report paints a picture of a company that was outfoxed by a small but shrewd group of anti-vaccine activists known as “big whales.”

Facebook researchers in May compared the problem to QAnon and allegations of election fraud “with a relatively few number of actors creating a large percentage of the content and growth”.

The other issue was that these same activists were targeting Facebook comments, giving the impression that vaccine scepticism and resistance were more widespread than they were.

A Facebook researcher discovered that two-thirds of comments were “anti-vax.”

According to Facebook Spokesperson Aaron Simpson, the documents unearthed in the report show the company’s routine process in navigating difficult challenges.

“Narrowly characterising leaked documents doesn’t accurately represent the problem, and it also ignores the work that’s been underway to make comments on posts about Covid-19 and vaccines safer and more reliable,” Simpson added.


About the author

Brendan Byrne

While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala.

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