U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez on Wednesday called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to publicly release all available data pertaining to vaccine misinformation on its social media platform.
Menendez (D-N.J.) said Facebook continues to refuse to share the specific number of users who have viewed vaccine misinformation. The spread of vaccine misinformation could hamper the efforts of public health officials as they work to vaccinate hard-to-reach communities and hesitant individuals, representing a serious concern for public safety.
“Given that nearly 200 million Americans have granted your platform access to mundane as well as intimate particulars of their lives, the very least Facebook can do is adhere to its own purported values and mission,” Menendez wrote in the letter. “Unlike you, members of Congress are accountable to the American people, and, for that reason, I will keep pushing your company to hold itself to a higher standard.
“If you truly believe in transparency, share with us the data available to you that will help us understand the magnitude of vaccine misinformation and inform our decision-making processes as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Menedez said Facebook has touted that over 2 billion users have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and its vaccine, yet misinformation continues to run rampant on the platform.
According to the Washington Post, a 26-minute anti-vaccine documentary called “Plandemic” was viewed 1.8 million times before Facebook removed the original video. A recent report from Markup.org’s “Citizen Browser project” found there are 117 active anti-vaccine groups on Facebook. Combined, the groups had roughly 275,000 members. The study also found that Facebook was recommending health groups to its users, including anti-vaccine groups and pages that spread COVID-19 misinformation and propaganda.
Menendez said a recent study of more than 20,000 Americans by the Covid States Project found that people who rely on Facebook to get news and information about COVID are less likely to be vaccinated than people who get their coronavirus information from right leaning media like Fox News. Facebook’s refusal to provide specific data on the number of users that have been exposed to vaccine misinformation prevents researchers and public health officials from understanding the consequences of the platform’s complacency regarding the spread of dangerous health misinformation, he said.
The complete letter can be viewed here.