Facebook says it has removed over three dozen pages on its platform peddling misinformation related to Covid-19 vaccines, weeks after the White House called on the company to do more to restrict the spread of such false narratives.
A recent study, conducted by the non-profit Center for Countering Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch, had suggested that close to 65 per cent of the vaccine-related misinformation on Facebook was coming from 12 people.
According to this 40-page report, the 12 anti-vaxxers on Facebook were Joseph Mercola, Robert F Kennedy Jr, Ty and Charlene Bollinger, SherriTenpenny, Rizza Islam, Rashid Buttar, Erin Elizabeth, Sayer Ji, Kelly Brogan, Christiane Northrup, Ben Tapper and Kevin Jenkins.
However, Facebook says these 12 people are responsible for only about 0.05 per cent of all views of vaccine-related content on Facebook.
“This includes all vaccine-related posts they’ve shared, whether true or false, as well as URLs associated with these people,” it noted in a blog post on Wednesday.
According to the social media giant, focusing on the dozen individuals “misses the forest for the trees.”
Disputing the methodology of the study, the company has instead removed over three dozen Pages, groups and Facebook or Instagram accounts linked to these 12 people, “including at least one linked to each of the 12 people, for violating our policies.”
In its blog post, the company says it has imposed penalties on nearly two dozen additional Pages, groups or accounts linked to these 12 people – moving their posts lower in News Feed so fewer people see them.
“We have worked closely with leading health organizations since January 2020 to identify and remove COVID-19 misinformation that could contribute to a risk of someone spreading or contracting the virus,” Facebook noted.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the company says it has removed over 3,000 accounts, Pages and groups for repeatedly violating our rules against spreading COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation, and removed more than 20 million pieces of content for breaking these rules.
Biden administration officials noted last month that some of the biggest public health threats on the platform include misinformation that the COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective, false claims that they carry microchips, and that they hurt women’s fertility.