Report: Only 16% of Health Misinformation on Facebook Had Warning Labels, Medical Misinformation Generated Nearly 3.8 Billion Views on the Platform

Facebook has been announcing measures to tackle the spread of misleading information on its platform during the coronavirus pandemic. While the social media giant may be doing its best to stop the spread of fake news, a new report suggests that only 16% of posts containing medical misinformation had warning labels from the social media platform and its fact-checkers. Recently, the company has been under fire for allowing misleading information to run rampant on Facebook’s platform and the new report published by Avaaz suggests that it may be worse than previously believed.

Non-profit group Avaaz conducted the research and stated that Facebook is failing to keep users safe and informed during the coronavirus pandemic. Avaaz analyzed 174 pieces of health misinformation and found that 84% of posts on Facebook with false claims were left online with no warnings or labels.

Avaaz’s report claims that during the last year, health misinformation on Facebook’s platform generated 3.8 billion views across five countries including Italy, Germany, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The report claims that the volume peaked in April of this year since the virus spread quickly across the globe. In April, posts containing medical misinformation generated approximately 460 million views on Facebook. It is important to note that the social media platform was pushing authentic information via the COVID-19 information center in April.

Activist group Avaaz tracked the views of 82 websites that were spreading misleading information on Facebook’s platform month by month from May 28 of last year to May 27, 2020. The report also claims that Facebook’s algorithm is helping to boost content from websites spreading misleading information. The report published by Avaaz suggests that the content from the top 10 sites that were spreading health misinformation generated nearly 4 times as many estimated views on the social media platform as equivalent content from the top 10 health institutions sites like WHO and CDC. The group concluded that the social media platform posed a ‘major threat’ to public health.

In response, Facebook denied all allegations of not taking appropriate measures to stop the spread of misleading information. A company’s spokesman said in a statement that Facebook shares Avaaz’s goal of limiting misleading information, however, Avaaz’s findings do not reflect the steps Facebook has taken to combat the spread of misleading information on its platform. He said that Facebook has applied warning labels to 98 million posts containing COVID-19 misinformation.

Avaaz suggests that Facebook should put fact-checked corrections alongside the misleading information on its platform and alter Facebook’s algorithm to reduce the reach of misleading information by 80%.

Read next: Study: People Are More Likely To Believe Fake News Related To the Coronavirus If They Get Their News from Social Media Platforms
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