It seems certainly like a week of reconsideration at Facebook.
After yesterday’s announcement of banning any denial Holocaust content, that in 2018 Mark Zuckerberg had said that he will allow, on the terms of free speech, Facebook has now announced a new policy that will ban any ads that tell people not go get the vaccines.
According to Facebook:
“We already don’t allow ads with vaccine hoaxes that have been publicly identified by leading global health organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Now, if an ad explicitly discourages someone from getting a vaccine, we’ll reject it.”
Facebook has announced the first step against the content of anti-vaccine AKA anti-vax in March 2019. That happened after some groups and pages were sharing some misinformation about the vaccination, they rejected any ad that included false claims about vaccines. However, Facebook has still allowed this sort of content on its platform, and this will be happening in the organic posts. The decision came just for the promoted posts, that is a new step in the right way, though it underlines a major and consistent flaw in the policy efforts of Facebook.
In this respect, it is hindsight. Now, with the impending need for a vaccine for COVID-19, Facebook has made its policies on anti-vaccine content and has determined that it has to do something to address the problem before it becomes huge on the platform when the COVID-19 vaccine is available.
However, anti-vaccine opinion is already a huge problem now. In June, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US stated that America will have considerable challenges the COVID-19 matter thanks to “general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling” between people.
Many reports have also particularly determined Facebook as a major enabler in the spread of misinformation, especially health ones, including conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a report announced earlier this year by human rights group Avaaz:
“Studies have shown that anti-vaccination communities prosper on Facebook, that the social media platform acts as a ‘vector’ for conspiracy beliefs that are hindering people from protecting themselves during the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Therefore, Facebook has already planned for solutions to the issue, it has been a concern for some time, and a problem that many groups have sought to bring to the attention of Facebook. Currently, with a greater and more necessary to concentrate on upcoming vaccines, Facebook has decided to have a reaction to that.
However, it is known about this for some time, why did facebook drag its feet?
The same question can be asked about QAnon. Last week, Facebook has announced a strong stance against any content about QAnon. They decided to ban all the conspiracy theory after some concerns that it would be encouraging people to act violently in real life. However, people had been alerting Facebook about this matter for years now. Currently, with hindsight, Facebook is taking more action as it faces immediate concerns. Yet that is too late for some accidents that have already happened. Why does it take a long time pressing concerns to Facebook to finally do something that is happening and been warning about for a lot of time?
Again, the same applies to Holocaust denial content. This week, Facebook has announced to ban any Holocaust denial posts as the new information shows an increase in anti-Semitic aggression. That Facebook has again absolutely been warned about for a long time in the past.
Facebook should have been taking more actions before hindsight on this matter earlier, however, more and more again, Facebook fails to take action at the right time for such matters. It doesn’t take an action before things turn to happen in real life.
Is Facebook making these changes because it really cares about its role in easing such issues, or just because of the pressure they get from the public based on media scanning? Absolutely many investigations have indicated that Facebook plays a huge role in the rise of the conspiracy theory of QAnon, while Facebook obviously does not want to be related to any violence, nor any reduction in the efficiency of the COVID-19 push.
However, Facebook wants all the engagement, it wants to ease the means for any discussion as much as possible to keep users engagement on the platform.
Is facebook actually caring for the people when they are making their decisions, or they just care for the public relations?
Indeed, It is a good thing to see Facebook taking stronger action on each matter, yet it also raises some questions about other content that the company allows on the platform which may also drive to serious real-world disasters. They just are not as huge deal until now. Maybe climate change denial? or lies of political ads?
We wish that these new shifts that facebook taking action on these matters and revising the misinformation problem more effectively.
Definitely, Zuckerberg noted in his post about its updated policy on Holocaust denial that:
“My own thinking has evolved […] drawing the right lines between what is and isn’t acceptable speech isn’t straightforward, but with the current state of the world, I believe this is the right balance.”
Probably, Zuckerberg starts to see things in a new way, focusing on the links between some online chattering and real-life disasters happening due to them.
There is a huge difference between freedom of speech and freedom of facts!
Additionally, Facebook is also adding a new alert to raise awareness of the flu vaccine by their Preventive Health Tool, while it is also planning to work with UNICEF and WHO on a new public health campaign to increase the immunization rates.
This is good too, there are really good steps, yet it feels like Facebook is always late when taking steps, that it just ever looks to act once a serious disaster happens in real life. Facebook’s motto earlier was “Move Fast & Break Things”. Probably a part of that is still effective, before working on cleaning up the mess.
However, still, we have to -one more time- give the giant platform the benefit of the doubt. There has been no company in Facebook’s place right now, in respect of societal influence and scale, that, as a matter of course, means that it will make mistakes.
But it just seems like a lot of them should have been stopped or avoided. They just have to consider warnings earlier than this.
Facebook stated that it is starting the new flu vaccine awareness campaign in the USA in the next few days with boarding to more countries very soon.