“All of my research is about things that social media platforms can do to make things better,” said David Rand, a professor at MIT and one of the authors of a study testing the impact of Trump praising vaccines. “But I think TV and radio, especially conservative TV and radio, are basically getting a free ticket right now, even though they’re doing incredible damage.”
The Biden administration’s criticism of Facebook’s account is a double win for Fox News. Not only does it divert attention from the network’s own guilt for the vaccination gap, but it feeds a strong right-wing narrative about the government and Big Tech in collusion to silence conservatives. “I just think that kind of coordination between a big government and a big monopoly corporation, boy, is a scary thing. And it’s really censorship, “said Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley he said Thursday on – where else? – Fox News. That sense of resentment easily sustained the conservative media over the weekend, with both experts and Republican lawmakers weighing, as Ted Cruz said, “their willingness to trample on free speech, trample on the Constitution, to silence government power, all we feared would could do. “
It’s easy to see why the White House would spend political capital beating on Facebook rather than Fox News: Facebook could actually listen. Biden has no influence on the right-wing media. When a Fox News presenter reviews the safety or wisdom of vaccination, it is not a failure to implement; it’s tonight’s programming. In contrast, many people on Facebook would rather not be responsible for poisoning the American public information environment.
Which, according to Facebook, they are not. U blog post last week, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, argued that Facebook is a force for good when it comes to vaccinations. He noted that “more than 2 billion people have viewed relevant information about Covid-19 and vaccines on Facebook” since the start of the pandemic, while the company has “removed over 18 million cases of Covid-19 misinformation.” And, he argued, Facebook had already complied with all eight surgeon general recommendations – which would include Murthy’s suggestion that companies “provide researchers with access to useful data to properly analyze the spread and impact of misinformation.”
In fact, Facebook notoriously does not provide access to the data needed to understand what is happening on its platform. Note, for example, that Rosen’s blog post doesn’t mention how many times users have seen unreliable information about Covid or vaccines. Facebook publishes statistics on engagement on posts – likes, shares, etc., but refused to disclose “reach” data, which means how many people see part of the content. Nor does it provide specific details about its efforts to reduce the spread of misinformation.
“The public has no idea what Facebook is doing or not doing in the fight against vaccine misinformation and has no sense of how bad or bad the problem is,” said Rand, a professor at MIT. “A lot of smart people within the company do a lot of work to try to reduce the impact of misinformation, but they don’t really talk much about it.”
Rand said platforms like Facebook should team up with outside researchers in empirical studies on what works and what doesn’t in the fight against vaccine misinformation – and publish the results. He noted that Facebook uses enough data to measure how exposure to vaccine posts affects real-world behavior. “They do randomized controlled trials on vaccine misinformation on a daily basis, but they just don’t think of it that way,” he said.
The irony is that providing some Seeing how he approaches the problem, Facebook seems to have strayed into the worst possible balance between transparency and secrecy. YouTube provides researchers with relatively little information available, helping them fly under political and regulatory radar despite its great importance. Meanwhile, Facebook via CrowdTangle provides just enough data for researchers and journalists to disrupt the company – but then hides evidence it claims would justify it.