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August 24, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Facebook is developing a system to automatically prevent content it deems “misinformation” from going viral and possibly even intrude on drafts of users’ posts to “fact-check” them in real time, according to a newsletter about social media’s handling of COVID-19.
In his August 20 newsletter, The Verge reporter Casey Newton identifies three proposals to combat COVID-19 misinformation proposed by the left-wing Center for American Progress (CAP).
“Virality circuit breakers” would “detect, label, suspend algorithmic amplification” on post determined to contain “coronavirus mis/disinformation”; “scan-and-suggest features” would “scan draft posts, detect drafts discussing the coronavirus, and suggest quality information to users or provide them cues” about bad information; and “subject matter context additions” would “embed quality information and relevant fact checks around posts on coronavirus topics.”
“The good news is that it seems Facebook agrees,” Newton reported. “The company told me late Thursday that it is piloting a new effort that resembles CAP’s suggestion, and plans to roll it out broadly soon.” The newsletter does not elaborate on whether the social media giant will be acting on both of CAP’s first two suggestions, but noted that it has already implemented the third.
Since March, Facebook and the rest of the world’s top internet companies have taken it upon themselves to act as arbiters of “reliable” information on the COVID-19 public health crisis.
While some of the criteria they have outlined are fairly straightforward, critics fear others could potentially cross the line from halting the spread of misinformation into stifling legitimate debate about the wisdom of controversial government policies as well as society’s evolving understanding of the scientific facts, including conflicting studies and changing advice from medical experts.
Critics also argue that Facebook, which cites as authoritative the compromised, pro-China World Health Organization (WHO), cannot be trusted to make these decisions impartially, or to avoid misinforming the public themselves. In February, Facebook flagged as false a New York Post article by China policy expert Steve Mosher arguing that COVID-19 may have come from a lab in Wuhan, China.
Mosher pointed out that the “fact-checker” Facebook cited was not an impartial analyst, but had actually worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Facebook eventually dropped the “fact-check” in April but did not apologize.
Last month, Pew Research reported that 72 percent of the public believes social media companies have “too much power and influence” in politics today.