Health misinformation generated billions of Facebook views in the last year, study finds

A 'like' sign stands at the entrance of Facebook headquarters May 18, 2012 in Menlo Park, California.
(Image credit: Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

Health misinformation is drawing a concerning number of eyes on Facebook, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study has found.

The advocacy group Avaaz on Wednesday released a report estimating that networks spreading health misinformation generated roughly 3.8 billion views on Facebook in the last year, reports The Hill.

The report says this health misinformation reached a peak in April 2020, when the networks drew about 460 million views, and only about 16 percent of the misinformation the study looked at actually received a warning label from Facebook. The study also found that the health misinformation had about four times as many views as content from leading health institutions like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that the platform's algorithm gives misinformation "an upper hand over authoritative health content."

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Facebook said earlier this month that between April and June, it removed seven million posts from Facebook and Instagram for COVID-19 misinformation and attached warning labels to nearly 100 million others. But The Washington Post notes that, for instance, the viral conspiracy video "Plandemic," which promotes false claims about the coronavirus, was removed by the company only after it had racked up millions of shares.

Based on its findings, Avaaz concludes that Facebook is "failing to keep people safe and informed" during the coronavirus crisis, while Avaaz campaign director Fadi Quran said, per The Hill, "Facebook's algorithm is a major threat to public health." A Facebook spokesperson told the Post, "We share Avaaz's goal of limiting misinformation, but their findings don't reflect the steps we've taken to keep it from spreading on our services."

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