Facebook has confirmed that it has removed around 110,000 fake news posts related to Covid-19 that came from Australian accounts or pages.
The posts spread misinformation about the pandemic, most notably fake preventative measures or exaggerated and unproven cures.
They were removed between March 2020 to the end of December 2020, and formed part of over 14 million pieces of content that were removed globally because they were deemed to constitute “misinformation related to Covid-19 that may lead to harm”.
Facebook’s first response to voluntary code
On Friday the Head of Public Policy for Facebook Australia, Josh Machin, made the announcement in a blog post.
He said this was Facebook’s first response to the voluntary industry code on disinformation and misinformation which the Australian Government had requested from the technology industry in late 2019.
The industry association for the digital industry in Australia, DIGI, led the industry’s response effort and launched the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation earlier this year.
“Facebook has taken aggressive steps to combat harmful Covid-19 misinformation and will continue to work with health experts to make sure that our approach and our policies are in the right place as the pandemic evolves,” Machin said.
Encourage a sophisticated public policy debate
“Importantly, for the first time we have prepared selected Australia-specific statistics about content on our platforms to encourage a sophisticated public policy debate about misinformation in Australia.”
He added that the platform has made a COVID-19 Information Centre available around the world to promote authoritative information to Facebook users.
Over 2-billion people globally have visited the Information Centre and more than6.2-millionAustralians had visited the Information Centre at some point over the course of the pandemic.
Among the high-profile Australians who have had their pages removed by Facebook for alleged misinformation are celebrity chef Pete Evans and independent MP Craig Kelly.
Government could institute mandatory regulation
Machin noted that the Australian Government previously indicated it is spending the first half of 2021 to assess if the DIGI industry code meets its expectations. If not, the Government will institute mandatory regulation.
“Facebook believes the voluntary code is a credible, world-leading first step in collaboration between the technology industry and governments to combat misinformation,” he said.
“Crafting new frameworks that balance freedom of speech but prevent the spread of harmful misinformation is challenging.
In Australia, DIGI followed a best-practice process in developing this industry code, commissioning independent expert research, undertaking a round of public consultation and deeper engagement with experts, publishing a draft version and genuinely incorporating feedback received into the final [document],” Machin said.