Facebook Accused Of Shelving Report Showing Misleading Vaccine Story As Most-Shared Link

Bangkok, Thailand - July 14th, 2019: Facebook signup web page app on smart phone Samsung Galaxy S10 with user sign in registration screen using social networking and computer notebook from anywhere office.

Facebook has been accused of shelving a report which revealed that the most shared link on the platform between January and March of 2021 was a story about a doctor who died two weeks after his COVID vaccine.

The story, originally published in The South Florida Sun and republished by The Chicago Tribune had the headline: ‘A ‘healthy’ doctor died two weeks after getting a COVID-19 vaccine; CDC is investigating why’. The story was later updated to include information that the doctor’s death had no proven link to the COVID-19 vaccine.

However, the article was Facebook’s most shared link in the US between January and March of 2021, viewed by nearly 54 million Facebook accounts, according to The New York Times.

CrowdTangle, Facebook’s social media analytics firm, revealed that of the top twenty shares of the story, six were Facebook pages known for consistent anti-vaxx posting.

Vaccine scepticism and other right-wing conspircay theories have found a foothold  on the platform, despite Facebook’s attempts to increase transparency and confront misinformation.

The report which contained this data, as alleged by the New York Times, was not shared with the public due to concerns is would ‘look bad’ for Facebook.

Facebook has released its ‘Widely Viewed Content‘ quarterly report on the most viewed posts on the platform – but this information was not included.

According to this report, the top three links for Q2 were a site called Player Alumni Resources for Alumni of the Green Bay Packers football team, as well as CBD distributer Pure Hemp Shop and a UNICEF link about the response to India’s COVID-19 crisis.

A Facebook spokesperson, Andy Stone, took to Twitter to defend the decision to shelve the Q1 report.

“We’ve been getting criticism for holding an internal report until it was more favorable for us and then releasing it. Getting criticism isn’t unfair. But it’s worth taking a closer look — and making note of some of the components of the story,” he tweeted as part of a thread.

“News outlets wrote about the south Florida doctor that died. When the coroner released a cause of death, the Chicago Tribune appended an update to its original story; NYTimes did not. Would it have been right to remove the Times story because it was COVID misinfo? Of course not. No one is actually suggesting this and neither am I.”

“But it does illustrate just how difficult it is to define misinformation.”

He vehemently denied the idea that the report was left unpublished to save face.

Facebook has now released the original report, which also showed that the 19th most popular page on the site was The Epoch Times.

The publication is known for it’s highly conservative anti-China rhetoric, as well as conspiracies surrounding COVID-19, vaccines and QAnon.

Featured Imaged:iStock/Pornpak Khunatorn

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