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Avaaz Report Facebook’s Algorithm: A Major Threat to Public Health

In this report, Avaaz uncovers global health misinformation spreading networks on Facebook that reached an estimated 3.8 billion views in the last year spanning at least five countries — the United States, the UK, France, Germany, and Italy. Many of these networks, made up of both websites and Facebook pages, have spread vaccination and health misinformation on the social media platform for years. However, some did not appear to have had any focus on health until Feb. 2020 when they started covering the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Section 1, we take a closer look at the global health misinformation networks, and show how 82 websites spreading health misinformation racked up views during the COVID-19 pandemic to a peak of 460 million estimated views on Facebook in April 2020. These websites had all been flagged by NewsGuard for repeatedly sharing factually inaccurate information, many of them before the pandemic.

We compared this to content from leading health institutions and found that during the month of April, when Facebook was pushing reliable information through the COVID-19 information centre, content from the top 10 websites spreading health misinformation reached four times as many views on Facebook as equivalent content from the websites of 10 leading health institutions, such as the WHO and CDC…”

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