Facebook and fake news, between rigorous and ambiguous attitudes
The news is very fresh and we have already told you about it in another article: Facebook has banned 3,000 fake news accounts on vaccines.
More precisely, in the last three months, the giant of Menlo Park has banned 3,000 users who have repeatedly broken the rules on disinformation by sharing hoaxes about the Coronavirus. The massive removal work involved more than 20 million pieces of content. In addition, 190 million posts received explicit warnings because their content was partially fake, manipulated or lacking an adequate reference context.
Fake news and Covid
Any self-censorship of social media against hoaxes is always welcome. We can say it with full knowledge of the facts, since for months now with our weekly column La bufala tech we have been monitoring the disinformation that appears on social networks. And that in recent times it has mainly focused on the pandemic. The no vaxes have found fertile ground in the emotionality of the population, shaken by the virus and by what follows.
Hence the disinformation for a few months now has particularly targeted the effectiveness of the vaccination campaign. Really bizarre news about vaccines has been spread: from Pfizer rendering magnetic to the phantom opening of fields in Tennessee to intern the no vaxes.
But one wonders if this recent move by Facebook to isolate fake news is part of a more structured planor whether the company in a recent past has had much softer attitudes towards those who spread disinformation.
Joe Biden against Facebook
A few weeks ago, US President Joe Biden’s earshot on Facebook and more generally on social networks, accused of none other than “killing people” with disinformation.
Facebook’s response had been harsh: social media would be the “scapegoats” of the White House which “failed the vaccination goal” it had set itself.
“More than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information on Covid-19 and vaccines on Facebook – more than anywhere else on the Internet. Over 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping to save lives. “
Facebook and fake news
Who is right between Biden and Facebook?
Or better: Has Facebook always done its utmost against fake news? Rereading our articles in the archive, there is the suspicion of a rather ambivalent attitude of the social platform with respect to disinformation.
For example, first last December and then at the beginning of February we reported Facebook’s uncompromising stance towards fake news concerning the Coronavirus. And that according to the company’s note they would be removed without delay.
The news continued with astonishing numbers: in March the announcement of the removal of 1.3 billion accounts for disinformation. And in May, here is the presentation of a new strategy to obscure those who propagate fake news on Facebook.
However, in July (a few days before Joe Biden’s reprimand) the bolt from the blue: the Washington DC district attorney has put the Zuckerberg company under investigation, guilty of not having done everything possible to block the disinformation on the vaccination campaign against the Coronavirus.
Facebook and fake news: innocence or malice?
How to interpret these fluctuating data? A benevolent point of view (perhaps to the point of naivety) could lead us to say that the amount of content that is poured out on social media every day is huge. And however strict the verification and filtering operations are, it is physiological for a large number of buffaloes to get out of control.
To be less indulgent, we can for example think of the recent and sensational move by Facebook, which banned a group of researchers intent on analyzing the hoaxes present on the Menlo Park social network.
Perhaps the company is looking for a very complicated balance between censorship and freedom of expression, which is the real big worry of every social platform. Facebook’s president of global affairs Nick Clegg said: “We cannot eliminate the right of people in a free society to express reservations about how the pandemic is managed.also because the scientific consensus changes “.
Clegg added that Facebook can never become the “absolute truth police”.
Also because, to put it simply, the more information is conveyed on a social network, the more users read, comment and share it. But on the other hand, the same social network would have no advantage in losing credibility by welcoming any content without filters. The difficult balance that Nick Clegg talks about is therefore not something that Facebook and its competitors passively suffer. But if anything, it is the most profitable survival strategy.