Analysis done by The Guardian newspaper showed Facebook user engagement with anti-vaccination content more than trebled from July to August.
The analysis was based on monitoring six popular pages which posted anti-vaccine messages.
In response Facebook said The Guardian’s analysis was not reflective of the platform as a whole, and said it took down 7 million pieces of misinformation related to COVID-19 between April and June.
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Analysis done by The Guardian newspaper suggests interest in anti-vaccination content on Facebook is soaring.
The investigation, using analytics tool CrowdTangle, focused on six UK-based Facebook pages, which the paper identified as being popular promoters of anti-vaccine content.
From July to August, interactions with anti-vaccine posts from those six pages increased more than three-fold, from 12,000 to 42,000.
The pages in question included an alternative medicine site with 1.9 million likes, and a page protesting lockdown measures in the UK with 30,000 likes, and a fan page for British conspiracy theorist David Icke with 22,000 likes.
The UK is currently experiencing a second wave of coronavirus infections. An August poll found just 30% of Britons said they would definitely get a coronavirus vaccine once it became available, with some experts blaming anti-vaccine misinformation and a lack of trust in the government for this low figure.
When contacted by the Guardian, a Facebook spokesperson said its analysis did not reflect the platform.
“This analysis only considers a small sample size and is not representative of our work in this space. Facebook does not allow harmful misinformation on our platforms and we have removed 7m pieces of Covid-19-related misinfo between April and June, as well as posts shared with us by the Guardian that violated our policies,” they said.
Facebook has been struggling with how to deal with content associated with the so-called “anti-vaxx” movement for years. It announced it was cracking down on the content in March 2019, banning any anti-vaccine ads and demoting it in search results.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook has started placing fact-checking cards on anti-vaccine content. The move prompted a lawsuit from an anti-vaccination group led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
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