Sunday, August 7, 2022

Meta wants to allow people to post coronavirus misinformation

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Meta has asked its oversight board whether its measures against coronavirus misinformation should remain in place.

The company, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, initially only removed misinformation when local partners with relevant expertise told it that certain content (such as a specific post on Facebook) could contribute to a risk of imminent physical harm.

Eventually, its policies were expanded to remove entire categories of false claims worldwide

Now the company has asked its board of directors — which consists of 20 members including politicians, lawyers and academics, and is funded by a $130 million trust from the social media giant — if it could “fix this misinformation by other means.” to address such as demotion either directly or through our third-party fact-checking program.”

In general, Meta’s content removal policy has had mixed results due to its questionable effectiveness.

Researchers conducting experiments on the platform found that two brand new accounts they set up recommended 109 pages of anti-vaccination information in just two days.

Now, however, Nick Clegg, Meta’s President for Global Affairs and former UK Deputy Prime Minister, says “life is increasingly returning to normal in some countries”.

“This is not the case everywhere and the course of the pandemic will continue to be very uneven around the world – especially in countries with low vaccination rates and less developed health systems. It is important that any policy that Meta implements is appropriate for the full range of circumstances that countries find themselves in.”

Meta is asking for guidance because “resolving the inherent tensions between freedom of expression and security is not easy, especially when we face unprecedented and fast-paced challenges like the ones we’ve experienced in the pandemic,” he wrote.

During the pandemic, Meta’s head of virtual reality, Andrew Bozworth, said that “individual people are the ones who choose to believe or not to believe. They’re the ones who choose to share or not to share,” adding that he didn’t. feel at all comfortable saying they don’t have a voice because I don’t like what they said.”

He continued: “If your democracy cannot tolerate the language of the people, I am not sure what kind of democracy it is. [Facebook is] a fundamentally democratic technology”.

A study conducted by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch found that nearly 65 percent of vaccine-related misinformation on Facebook came from 12 people. The researchers also said that at the heart of the problem are recommendation algorithms, which are still generally designed to promote content that will appeal to the most people, regardless of what it is — even conspiracy theories.

“For a long time companies tolerated that because they said, ‘Who cares if the earth is flat, who cares if you believe in chemtrails?’ It seemed harmless,” said Hany Farid, a misinformation researcher and professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

“The problem with these conspiracy theories, which may have seemed silly and harmless, is that they have led to a general distrust of governments, institutions, scientists and the media, and that has set the stage for what we are seeing now.”

In a statement, the Center for Countering Digital Hate said Meta’s request to its oversight board “was intended to distract from Meta’s failure to respond to a spate of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories being floated by opportunistic liars during the coronavirus pandemic.”

“CCDH research, as well as Meta’s own internal analysis, shows that the majority of anti-vaccine misinformation comes from a tiny number of highly prolific bad actors. But Meta has failed to impact key figures who still reach millions of followers on Facebook and Instagram,” said Callum Hood, research director at the CCDH.

“Platforms like Meta should not have absolute power over such life-and-death issues that affect billions of people. It is time people in the UK and elsewhere were given democratic scrutiny over life-changing decisions made thousands of miles away in Silicon Valley.”

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