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Facebook ‘tried to censor posts about vaccine hesitancy, internal memos leaked by whistleblowers claim’
Project Veritas says it obtained leaked documents from Facebook
‘Beta’ version of algorithm designed to crack down on anti-vax comments
James O’Keefe, head of Project Veritas, discussed documents on Fox News
O’Keefe said he obtained documents from two whistleblowers inside Facebook
Docs show ‘tier’ system in which platform rates ‘vaccine hesitancy’ content
Whistleblowers from inside Facebook say that the social network is censoring skeptics of the COVID-19 vaccine by demoting user comments by way of an algorithm that calculates a ‘vaccine hesitancy score,’ Project Veritas claims.
James O’Keefe, the head of Project Veritas, claimed on Fox News that two anonymous Facebook employees leaked documents showing that the company was testing a ‘beta’ version of the algorithm to target anti-vaxxers.
The documents purport to show that the beta version was being tested on 1.5 per cent of some 3.8 billion users of Facebook and its subsidiary, Instagram, around the world.
‘Based on that VH score, we will demote or leave the comment alone depending on the content within the comment,’ one of the anonymous whistleblowers told Project Veritas
James O’Keefe, the head of Project Veritas, interviewed an anonymous whistleblower who claimed to provide documents showing that Facebook was demoting or removing content from those who expressed skepticism of the COVID-19 vaccine
DailyMail.com has reached out to Facebook seeking comment.
In a statement to Project Veritas, a spokesman said: ‘We proactively announced this policy on our company blog and also updated our help center with this information.’
Project Veritas says it obtained the purportedly leaked documents from whistleblowers.
The title of the document reads ‘Vaccine Hesitancy Comment Demotion.’
In its ‘executive summary’ section, it states that the goal is to ‘drastically reduce user exposure to vaccine hesitancy (VH) in comments.’
The document states that ‘reducing the visibility of these comments represents another significant opportunity for us to remove barriers to vaccination that users on the platform may potentially encounter.’
Facebook’s aim is to ‘decrease in other engagement of VH comments including crate, likes, reports [and] replies.’
‘The narrative [is] get the vaccine, the vaccine is good for you, everyone should get it,’ the documents state.
‘If you don’t, you will be singled out as an enemy of society.’
Project Veritas unveiled documents it claims to have obtained from the whistleblowers. The title of the document reads ‘Vaccine Hesitancy Comment Demotion.’ In its ‘executive summary’ section, it states that the goal is to ‘drastically reduce user exposure to vaccine hesitancy (VH) in comments.’
The company documents recommend ‘action mapping’ which involves either demoting or outright removing comments depending on the severity of the violation, according to Project Veritas
One whistleblower told O’Keefe that Facebook wants to ‘build a community where everyone complies – not where people can have an open discourse and dialogue about the most personal and private and intimate decisions.’
‘It doesn’t match the narrative,’ the whistleblower said.
‘The narrative being, get the vaccine, the vaccine is good for you. Everyone should get it.
‘And if you don’t, you will be singled out.’
The system set up by the social network ranks users into tiers that grade comments based on the degree to which they are aimed at dissuading others from getting inoculated, according to Project Veritas.
‘Tier 0’ is assigned to any comments that ‘coordinate harm’ by ‘promoting interference with the administration of a vaccine, including an event, group, page, account, etc dedicated to this purpose.’
That tier is also assigned to any comment that ‘advocates’ or ‘promotes’ that ‘others not get a vaccine.’
‘Tier 1’ is for any comments that express ‘alarmism and criticism’ of the vaccines, including ‘disparaging others on the basis of their choice to vaccinate.’
‘T1’ is also assigned to comments that ‘suggest or imply that vaccines are unsafe, ineffective, sacrilegious, or irrelevant.’
‘Tier 2’ comments are those that offer ‘indirect discouragement’ against taking the vaccine by speculating on ‘unproven or severe side effects or death.’
The company documents recommend ‘action mapping’ which involves either demoting or outright removing comments depending on the severity of the violation, according to Project Veritas.
‘What’s remarkable about these private documents that Facebook has not wanted you to see until tonight is that ‘Tier 2′ [violation] says even if the facts are true that you will be targeted and demoted – your comments will be targeted and demoted,’ O’Keefe told Fox News.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pictured on March 25) has come under pressure to crack down on vaccine-related misinformation on his platform
‘They don’t want you to know that they are doing this. And this is the town square as you all know. We are trying to retake our town square,’ he said.
‘They are demoting your comments and de-boosting you on Facebook without you knowing that they are doing that.
‘And they are obviously terrified of this report because they are responding to Project Veritas before they would attack us or ignore us.
‘There is more to come.’
On its company blog, Facebook acknowledges that it reduces the visibility of content that may not violate company policy but does ‘discourage someone from getting vaccinated.’
A digital sign is seen above at Facebook’s corporate headquarters in Menlo Park, California on October 23, 2019
In March, Facebook announced that it would be adding informational labels to posts about vaccines as it expands efforts to counter COVID-19-related misinformation flourishing on its platforms.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post that labels will contain ‘credible information’ about the vaccines from the World Health Organization.
They will be in English and five other languages, with more languages added in coming weeks.
‘For example, we’re adding a label on posts that discuss the safety of COVID-19 vaccines that notes COVID-19 vaccines go through tests for safety and effectiveness before they’re approved,’ Zuckerberg said.
The social network also added a tool to help get users vaccinated by connecting them to information about where and when they can get their shot.
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