The Oversight Board of Meta, an independent panel selected by the social media giant to deliberate its content decisions, has published a document that supports the content moderation measures taken by Meta during the peak of the covid epidemic. The board also recommends a number changes to the company’s misinformation policy, while highlighting its failure to assess its social media platforms impact on public health and rights.
The board is urging Meta to commission an assessment of the impact that design features such as Facebook’s News Feed algorithm can have on spreading dangerous misinformation about health. The board is urging Meta to release any previous research the company conducted on the subject. The White House criticized Facebook during the peak of the covid epidemic in 2021 for spreading misinformation about vaccines. They accused the platform’s algorithms of favoring false information.
The report recommends that Meta publish information about government requests to remove content related to covid.
The panel recommends that Meta maintain its current covid misinformation policies but be more transparent in removing content from its platforms. The board recommends that Meta publish the information about government requests for content review regarding public health emergency situations. This is because there are concerns that the pandemic of covid has been used as a tool to “erode democracy’s tenets.”
Meta’s misinformation policy states that content can be removed if it could cause “imminent physical harm”, interfere with political processes or lead to “certain highly misleading manipulated media”. It also contains specific exclusions that prevent certain covid related content from being taken down, like joking about “only Brad Pitt’s blood curing covid.”
Based on WHO’s ongoing declaration of health emergency, the board recommends that Meta keep its current policies regarding covid misinformation.
The Oversight Board recommends in its findings that Meta keep its current policies as long as World Health Organization continues declaring covid a public health emergency. Meta’s “insistence on a global approach” was the main factor in this recommendation, as Meta claimed it lacked the ability to implement localized adjustments by country or region. The board concludes, too, that continuing to remove misinformation about covid during a global emergency – and protecting its users against physical harm – is consistent with Meta values and human right responsibilities.
The Oversight Board recommends that Meta provide greater support to independent research on its platforms, in addition to greater transparency regarding removal decisions.