The bad news for Facebook is endless. New leaked documents, has new details around tiers of effort put in to monitor elections, struggles moderating non-English content, and user engagement taking precedence over safety.
Facebook has taken a lot of criticism for its handling of COVID misinformation — including from President Biden, who accused the platform of “killing people” by letting anti-vaxx sentiment run amok — but the leaks show just how chaotic the effort was inside the company. One document dated March 2021 shows an employee raising the alarm about how unprepared the platform was. “Vaccine hesitancy in comments is rampant,” the memo reads. “Our ability to detect vaccine-hesitant comments is bad in English, and basically non-existent elsewhere. We need Policy guidelines specifically aimed at vaccine hesitancy in comments.”
“Comments are a significant portion of misinfo on FB,” says another employee in an internal comment, “and are almost a complete blind spot for us in terms of enforcement and transparency right now.”
The document makes clear that Facebook already had a “COVID-19 lockdown defense” project dedicated to the platform dynamics created by the pandemic, including a workstream dedicated entirely to vaccine hesitancy. That team had also created significant automated flagging systems for misinformation — but according to the files, those simply weren’t being used to downrank anti-vaccine comments. As of the March memo, there were no plans to develop moderation infrastructure like labeling, guidelines, and classifier systems to identify anti-vaccine statements in comments.