Facebook stalled in combating vaccine misinformation during pivotal time in COVID-19 battle

Coronavirus

FILE – This March 29, 2018, file photo shows the Facebook logo on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York’s Times Square. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Last spring, false claims about vaccine safety threatened to undermine the world’s response to COVID-19.

All the while, researchers at Facebook found they could reduce vaccine misinformation by tweaking how vaccine posts show up on users’ newsfeeds.

Yet despite evidence that it worked, Facebook took a full month to implement the changes at a pivotal time in the global vaccine rollout. Facebook’s own documents also reveal how comments on posts are a hotbed for anti-vaccine messages.

But when another researcher suggested disabling comments on vaccine posts, that idea was ignored. Those revelations were contained in disclosures by a former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower.

Facebook says it has made “considerable progress” with downgrading vaccine misinformation in users’ feeds.

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