General surgeon Vivek MurthyVivek MurthySunday Shows Sneak Peek: Federal Government Criticizes Social Media Over COVID-19 Misinformation Facebook Pushes Back White House Criticism, Says It ‘Is Looking For Scapegoats’ Overnight Health Care: Director of the CDC warns of ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ | Biden says social media platforms are ‘killing people’ | Florida accounts for 20% of new cases PLUS issued an advisory Thursday declaring disinformation an “urgent threat” and called on tech companies it accused of amplifying disinformation to take action to tackle false and often dangerous claims.
“Health misinformation didn’t start with COVID-19. What’s different now is the speed and scale at which health misinformation spreads, ”Murthy said during a White House briefing.
The United States has failed to President BidenJoe Biden Biden calls on Congress to pass voting bills on anniversary of John Lewis’ death Afghan and Taliban officials meet in Qatar amid US troop withdrawal Biden administration investigation of cases of “Havana syndrome” in Austria MOREThe July 4 target of 70 percent of U.S. adults receiving at least one injection of the coronavirus vaccine, the country’s vaccination rate has declined, and the delta variant is spreading rapidly in unvaccinated pockets of the country.
Now, as the administration pushes to get Americans vaccinated, authorities are battling a force of bogus anti-vaccination claims researchers have identified on social media platforms.
A published report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate earlier this year, found that 12 accounts were responsible for up to 65% of anti-vaccine content, according to an analysis of more than 812,000 Facebook and Twitter posts between Feb.1 and March 16.
“Modern tech companies have allowed disinformation to poison our information environment with little accountability to attackers,” Murthy said in Thursday’s briefing.
“They’ve designed product features like ‘Like’ buttons that reward us for sharing emotionally charged content… and their algorithms tend to give us more of what we click, leading us to more. and deeper into a well of disinformation. he added.
Biden strongly berated social media platforms and the role they play in spreading COVID-19 disinformation.
“They’re killing people,” Biden told reporters on Friday. “The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they kill people.
Facebook spokesman Dani Lever rebuffed Biden’s assessment, saying in a statement Friday that the platform “will not be distracted by accusations that are not supported by the facts.”
Lever touted Facebook’s pressure to connect users with authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines.
“The facts show that Facebook is helping to save lives. Period, ”she said.
Brittany Allen, a trust and security architect at fraud prevention firm Sift, said a quick Facebook search for “vaccines kills” on Friday morning led her to two public groups spreading misinformation about the vaccine with about 500 to 2,000 members.
“Even though this may seem like a small drop in the bucket for Facebook’s overall user base, the ability of something to spread through this sharing feature is far more important than the number of group members,” said Allen at The Hill.
A Facebook spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment when asked about the two groups identified by Allen.
Additionally, Allen said posts to the Telegram encrypted messaging app include screenshots of Facebook with misinformation.
“We can’t think of Facebook as that kind of siled media entity, either because of the ease with which it can be captured or shared off the platform,” Allen said.
Disinformation experts have warned of threats posed by viral disinformation, both in the context of the pandemic and beyond, and some say the administration’s push may be crucial in forcing the giants’ hand of technology.
“The surgeon general is choking tech companies,” said Darrell West, senior researcher at the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution.
“This is warning tech companies that people are paying a lot more attention than in the past. People get a lot of information from these social media sites, they really have a responsibility to fight disinformation, ”he added.
Leading researchers from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center wrote an editorial published by NBC News qualifying the opinion of the surgeon general of “turning point in the history of Internet”.
“Much like its predecessor attacked tobacco companies decades ago, it attacks the tech industry by defining how misinformation harms Americans. In our opinion, this review shows that social media is a product in need of serious consumer protection regulation, ”wrote Joan Donovan, research director of the Shorenstein Center and Jennifer Nilsen, researcher.
While the spread of health misinformation did not start with the pandemic, it has drawn attention to the problem and forced platforms to develop policies to moderate anti-vaccine content.
Twitter, Facebook and Google, owner of YouTube, have defended their policies put in place to fight disinformation about COVID-19 despite the retreat from the White House and advocacy groups.
A Facebook spokesperson praised the company’s partnership with government experts, health authorities and researchers to “take aggressive action against disinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines to protect public health.”
The spokesperson boasted that Facebook has removed “over 18 million misinformation about COVID” as well as accounts that “repeatedly break these rules.”
YouTube spokeswoman Elena Hernandez said the video-sharing platform removes content that violates its COVID-19 disinformation policies, demotes “borderline videos” and highlights “prominently” authoritative content on COVID-19.
A Twitter spokesperson said the platform would “continue to take enforcement action on content that violates our COVID-19 Misleading Information Policy” and improve efforts to “elevate credible health information and reliable ”.
Asked Friday during a press briefing at the White House if she found Facebook’s response “sufficient”, the press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden’s silence on filibuster is straining Democrats’ patience. said, “Clearly no. ”
“We are talking about additional steps that should be taken,” Psaki said.
“We are dealing here with a matter of life and death, so everyone has a role to play in making sure there is accurate information. Obviously, these are actions they have taken. It is a private sector company. They are going to make decisions on what further steps they can take. Clearly there is more that can be taken, ”she added.
The opinion of the surgeon general highlights the deep partisan divide on moderation of digital content.
Democrats in Congress have pushed social media platforms to take more action to tackle disinformation online and argue that companies are not taking a sufficient stand against false claims. Leading figures in this push, like Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSunday Shows Sneak Peek: Federal Government Criticizes Social Media Over COVID-19 Misinformation (D-Minn.) Et Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSanders Seeks Chance to Put His Footprint on Government Democrats face tough obstacles despite a promising start. (D-Va.), Applauded the advice.
Meanwhile, prominent Republicans continue to disparage efforts to crack down on disinformation online.
Trump administration coronavirus testing czar Brett Giroir has likened Murthy’s recommendations to platforms to crack down on disinformation to “government censorship.”
“Government censorship of alternative views (even if it is wrong) will lead to more distrust of the government and concerns about vaccines, not less,” Giroir tweeted.
His remarks echo claims congressional republicans spoke out against the platforms, saying they censor content with an anti-conservative bias. However, there has been a lack of evidence to support the claims.
In platforms published by leading House GOP members on the Judiciary and Energy and Trade committees, tackling censorship allegations is seen as a top priority.
Given the political polarization, it is unclear how much the notice will help combat online disinformation, said Saif Shahin, an assistant professor in the School of Communications at American University.
“People believe in the elements of disinformation because it fits into their kind of larger narratives about the world and about society and America. So there is also a significant demand for disinformation. People who are ready to believe some things rather than others, whether they are true or not, ”he said.
Even though mainstream platforms can be erased from bogus claims, new alternative platforms would fill the void, he added.
“There will always be a new Talking,” he said, referring to the app that gained popularity around the election due to its hands-off content moderation approach. “Or some other social media app that won’t. “