The human rights non-profit organization Avaaz recently published a study examining the prevalence of health-related fake news on Facebook.

According to research based on public data, between May 2019 and May 2020 misinformation about vaccines and other health topics has been viewed about 3.8 billion times on Facebook. This is four times the viewing rate of reliable content from the WHO and the CDC.
Since the release of the coronavirus, Facebook has taken steps to reduce COVID-related misinformation (this is also one of the disadvantages of the above research: some of the more recent steps Facebook has taken to crack down on health misinformation don’t factor into their analysis). These steps include the COVID information center, which has been seen by around 2 billion users - and has been opened by around 660 million. Another step was to increase fact-checking: in April alone, the company put warning labels on 50 million posts that were rated as false by third-party fact-checkers.
Still, tech platforms probably have more tools to manage the spread of misinformation than they’re using today: another study, by the Center for American Progress nonprofit, suggested three possible tools:
1. Virality circuit breakers.
Platforms should detect and suspend algorithmic amplification, and prioritize rapid review and fact-checking of trending coronavirus content that displays reliable misinformation markers.
2. “Scan-and-suggest” features.
Platforms can develop privacy-sensitive features that scan the draft of posts to filter out drafts that discuss the coronavirus and suggest quality information to users, or alert them to false or misleading news before the post is published.
3. Subject matter context additions
Social media platforms should embed quality information and relevant fact checks around posts on coronavirus topics. Providing in-post context by default can help equip users with the information they need to interpret the post content for themselves
Facebook has also recently started using the latter tool: a pop-up window will display additional information in case the user shares an article about the coronavirus on the site.

Author: Casey Newton