Story at a glance:
- In the first six months of 2021, a group page that spread false and conspiratorial information regarding COVID-19 more than doubled the average number of interactions on Facebook.
- The World Doctors Alliance includes prominent members who have falsely claimed COVID-19 is a hoax and that vaccines cause widespread harm.
- The page also has a global appeal, having posts in English, Spanish, Arabic and German.
In the first six months of 2021, a group page that spread false and conspiratorial information regarding COVID-19 more than doubled the average number of interactions on Facebook.
The example of this page calls into question Facebook’s ability to check misinformation on its platform, The Guardian reported.
A page called World Doctors Alliance, an assembly of current and former medical professionals and academics from seven countries, pushes out false claims that COVID-19 is a hoax and vaccines are harmful.
World Doctors Alliance is receiving a lot of engagement as of June 2021; it received 617,000 interactions, which is 142 percent growth in just six months, according to obtained figures by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD).
ISD researchers said World Doctors Alliance’s posts on COVID-19 and vaccines had drawn at least 5.7 million interactions, The Washington Post reported.
Their videos have been viewed tens of millions of times.
Calls for Facebook to take better responsibility for users followed claims that the company knew its products were damaging the mental health of teenage girls and encouraging ethnic violence in Ethiopia.
The page also has a global appeal.
Seventy-four percent of World Doctors Alliance’s top 50 posts in English were found by ISD to contain “false, misleading or conspiratorial information” as outlined in Facebook’s policies or that contradicted guidance from public health authorities. The same was true of 88 percent of those top posts in Spanish, 82 percent of those in Arabic and 48 percent of those in German, The Post reported.
The World Doctors Alliance includes prominent members who have falsely claimed COVID-19 is a hoax and that vaccines cause widespread harm. Researchers found members “used their qualifications to lend a veneer of credibility to claims that have been proven to be false and often dangerous.”
“Facebook’s attempts to control the epidemic of misleading information on its platforms are nothing more than performative PR exercises,” Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said, The Guardian cited.
“It has had more than a decade to get a handle on the rampant misinformation which has flooded its platforms. But the systems in place fall a long way short of the mark, as this research clearly demonstrates.
“With each new revelation of Facebook’s institutional failure to act, we move closer to social media’s so-called ‘big tobacco moment’, when it is forced to finally take responsibility for the demonstrable harms caused by their products.”
The World Doctors Alliance did not respond to Changing America’s request for comment.
A spokesperson for Facebook told The Guardian the company had removed the parent group for the World Doctors’ Alliance, World Freedom Alliance, in July, as well as 200m pieces of misinformation during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Since the pandemic began, our goal has been to promote reliable information about Covid-19, take more aggressive action against misinformation, and encourage people to get vaccinated,” the spokesperson told The Guardian.
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