If you’ve been on Facebook lately, you’re likely familiar with that growing sense of irritation that builds the more time you spend scrolling. Even if you get past your high school friend’s vacation photos and your aunt’s semi-racist posts, it's hard to ignore that the platform is so ripe for spreading news that the fake news, conspiracy theories, and general misinformation are just an errant click away. Still, it’s perhaps even more worrying that Facebook continues to shrug its shoulders when presented with this information, assuming little to no responsibility time and again.
The latest example is anti-vaccination groups. The Daily Beast found that groups and pages that spread fake and scientifically unproved information about how vaccines cause autism or other diseases appear at the top of a Facebook search for terms like “vaccines.” This promotion helps these groups gain authority and notoriety, and spreads their fake news. A search for general vaccine information on the social media platform returns anti-vaxx groups with names like “United Against Vaccines,” Vaccines Injury Stories,” and “Vaccines Exposed.” For instance: one page, “The Truth About Vaccines,” shared an article claiming that children who aren’t vaccinated are healthier than those who are to their 130,000 followers.
Considering how social media has a way of spreading misinformation like wildfire, coupled with just how many people will believe anything they read on the internet, it’s not hard to understand the severity of continuing to give these groups prominent online real estate.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Daily Beast it “removes information that violates its community guidelines.” Beyond that, the platform is designed to allow “users to tailor the information they see on the site.” In addition, the spokesperson pointed to the platform’s attempt to get into the fact-checking game by providing information next to inaccurate articles on the News Feed. Other strategies the company employed in the past included reducing the size of fake news posts and allowing users to rank the credibility of news outlets.
Still, Facebook “refused to comment” on specifically why it continues to allow anti-vaxx pages to flourish or why these pages are so easy to find through simple searches.
If you still can’t understand why Facebook refuses to do the right thing, then look no further than Mark Zuckerberg himself. In a recent interview, he revealed his super intelligent opinion on why he doesn’t believe Facebook should censor Holocaust deniers. Although he’s Jewish himself and likely capable of understanding just how untrue and offensive Holocaust deniers can be, he doesn’t believe those who spend time crafting anti-Holocaust arguments online are doing it intentionally. Yeah, it’s... weird.
“Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue—but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services,” Zuckerberg explained. Except it’s very hard to achieve the second thing without the first.