Facebook Criticized For Withholding Controversial Report About News, COVID

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Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has released a report on the most viewed news stories in the second quarter. However, as the New York Times informs, an initial Q1 report was shelved because it could show how the company is struggling to deal with misinformation on the platform.

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Heated Controversy

The New York Times obtained a copy of the previous version and found out that it had been withheld as it would reveal how Facebook might not be doing enough to counter misleading news.

In the document in question, the most viewed news story in the January-March period was “a news article with a headline suggesting that the coronavirus vaccine was at fault for the death of a Florida doctor.”

According to The Verge, the released Q2 version “offers a rosier picture of the company; the most-viewed post in Q2 was a word puzzle that invited users to pick out the first three words they saw.”

Facebook policy communications manager Andy Stone tweeted Saturday: “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.”

Bad Reputation?

The New York Times report comes a few months after U.S. President Joe Biden had accused Facebook of “killing people” by not controlling the information spread on the platform, and how this has affected the government’s vaccination plan.

Back then, Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, also told a Fox News reporter: “Our biggest concern, and frankly, I think it should be your biggest concern, is the number of people who are dying around the country because they are getting misinformation that is leading them to not take a vaccine.”

Ever since, Mark Zuckerberg and other company executives have restated that the platform has been ruthless on COVID-19 misinformation when the pandemic started.

However, former Facebook's vice president of product marketing, Brian Boland says: “You can’t trust a report that is curated by a company and designed to combat a press narrative rather than real meaningful transparency … It’s up to regulators and government officials to bring us that transparency.”

Facebook is part of the Entrepreneur Index, which tracks 60 of the largest publicly traded companies managed by their founders or their founders’ families.