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Facebook has removed more than 110,000 pieces of Covid-related misinformation generated by Australian accounts in the first year of the pandemic, the company has revealed.
In February, Facebook, along with Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Redbubble and TikTok, signed on to a new voluntary industry code aimed at combating misinformation and disinformation online.
As part of the code, members are required to publish annual reports on how they are implementing the code’s obligations, with the first report due this month.
In a blog post on Friday, Facebook’s head of public policy in Australia, Josh Machin, revealed that between March and December 2020, Facebook removed more than 14m pieces of misinformation related to Covid-19, including content about fake preventative measures or exaggerated cures.
Machin said Facebook had identified 110,000 of those posts came from Australian accounts or pages.
As part of the tech giant’s crackdown on misinformation, Facebook removed the former Liberal turned independent MP Craig Kelly’s Facebook page in April for repeated breaches, including posts about unproven treatments for Covid-19. The celebrity chef Pete Evans’ account was removed in late December for similar reasons.
Machin also noted 6.2 million of the 2 billion people globally who had visited Facebook’s Covid-19 information centre, aimed at promoting authoritative sources, during the pandemic were located in Australia.
Facebook has also made public a live list on Crowdtangle so people can follow the discussion of Covid-19 in Australia. The Crowdtangle tools have also been made more accessible to journalists and researchers for free.
The federal government has said it could legislate a mandatory code later this year if the voluntary code wasn’t meeting expectations, but Machin said the code was “a credible, world-leading first step”, while noting misinformation was not limited to social media.
“We need to understand online misinformation as part of a broad ecosystem of information-sharing. Misinformation can occur offline, online, on TV, on radio or podcasts, or in face-to-face conversations between family and friends. Often, sharing of misinformation may be inadvertent – but it can also be deliberately shared by political groups or bad actors,” he said.
“Pushing back on misinformation is a constant task, part of the essential process of open debate in a democratic society.”
Technology lobby group Reset Australia has been highly critical of the code, describing it as “limp” and “toothless”. This week, it published a report tracking 13 Australian Facebook anti-vaccination or anti-lockdown groups using Crowdtangle between January 2020 and March 2021. The organisation found the groups had grown in membership by 280% over that time with a total of 115,000 members.
Guardian Australia understands Reset Australia’s report was finalised before Facebook implemented stricter rules around groups, and the company removed some groups for repeatedly sharing misinformation.
One of the largest anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown groups featured in the report, Wake Up Australia, which boasted 21,500 members, has been removed by Facebook. Other groups or pages with the same name have appeared since.
“We’re taking down groups that repeatedly share this content, removing related groups from the recommendations we show people, and directing people who search for Covid to credible information from leading health organisations,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Facebook removes 110,000 pieces of Covid misinformation posted by Australian users | Facebook