The Press Gazette’s campaign, Fight The Infodemic, dug through 7,295 misleading claims about the pandemic on Poynter’s database.
Social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube have come under fire for coronavirus misinformation. But the Press Gazette in the United Kingdom analyzed the Poynter Coronavirus Facts database and found that Facebook is the leading source of inaccurate or misleading stories about coronavirus.
The Press Gazette’s campaign, Fight The Infodemic, dug through 7,295 misleading claims about the pandemic on Poynter’s database. The database only lists claims that have been fact-checked, and each entry shows the platform where the claim originated. The Press Gazette found Facebook was mentioned in the origin field of 4,094 entries, or more than 56% of the entries.
This far outstrips the false data circulating on other platforms: 1,066 on Twitter, 999 on Whatsapp, 90 on Instagram and 265 on YouTube.
More than 30 of the articles named President Donald Trump as a source. A text search of the claims also found that Trump was mentioned 123 times. The second most mentioned political leader was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose surname appeared 44 times.
President Trump’s Fourth of July remarks—that “99%” of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless”—has been debunked by the New York Times, yet Dr. Stephen Hahn, head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, repeatedly refused to confirm or deny the claim. The president appears to be misquoting the estimated death rate of .1%, and disregarding the sometimes lasting health problems that can accompany an infection of the virus.
As many as 15 to 20% of known COVID-19 patients may require hospitalization, and of that number, 15 to 20% are transferred into intensive care. Impaired lung function, neurological problems, and cognitive deficits are a few of the problems people continue to struggle with upon discharge.
Fighting false information is key to public health, especially during a pandemic linked to more than 500,000 deaths worldwide and still spreading in the U.S. The Press Gazette’s campaign is pressuring all social media firms to tighten up on fact-checking content.
Facebook has added warning labels to conspiracy-theory content on both its main platform and on Instagram, and removed “hundreds of thousands” of pandemic-related misinformation, a spokesperson told Newsweek. That includes articles that could “lead to imminent harm, including posts about false cures, claims that social distancing measures do not work and 5G causes coronavirus.”
“During March and April, we put warning labels on about 90 million pieces of COVID-19 related misinformation globally, which prevented people viewing the original content 95 percent of the time. We’ve also directed over two billion people to resources from the WHO and other health authorities… and pop-ups,” the spokesperson added, via email.
Hundreds of companies have vowed to pause their advertising on Facebook until the company addresses how it handles harmful content on its platform, including hate speech.
“Hate and dangerous online misinformation should not go unchecked,” Volkswagen Group of America said in a recent statement. “We expect our advertising partners to reflect our values, and Volkswagen — as well as other companies — must hold them to the same standards we demand of ourselves.”