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28th Jan 2023

Facebook users in EU get more Covid disinformation than US

  • Facebook is not doing enough to flag and debunk Covid-related disinformation, according to the new report (Photo: Eduardo Woo)

Europeans are more exposed to coronavirus conspiracies on Facebook than US users, according to new research.

A study out on Tuesday (20 April) by the global activist NGO, Avaaz, found bogus information on the virus on Facebook was more often left debunked when written in Italian and French.

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"Europeans are at greater risk of seeing, and interacting, with Covid-19-related misinformation," noted the report.

The researchers had done a comparative study of English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese languages used on the social media platform.

They looked at 135 misinformation posts on the virus, spanning late last year to early 2021.

Out of the five languages, Italian was the most used for misinformation, followed by French and Portuguese.

"Italian speakers are least protected from misinformation, with measures lacking for 69 percent of Italian content examined," Avaaz noted.

Bogus content in English, by comparison, was left untouched in 26 percent of the cases, followed by Spanish at 33 percent.

The NGO faulted for Facebook for neglecting to fact-check misinformation on its platform, noting that a majority of content remains untouched when written in a language other than in English.

They also say the EU's policy to weed out disinformation on social media platforms is not working as designed.

Facebook, Google and Twitter had agreed to implement an EU code of practice on disinformation. But the code is self-regulating, posing questions on whether it is truly effective.

European Commission vice-president Vera Jourova said the code is undergoing reforms.

"Despite improvements, FB & other platforms must do more to ensure their policies are vigorously enforced across the globe," she tweeted.

"Hence we're working to revamp code of practice against #disinformation," she added.

Meanwhile, apolicy brief out in February had also found Europeans are more reluctant to get vaccinated than people in the United States.

That report was carried out, in part, by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

They had looked at vaccine-hesitancy rates in France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Ukraine.

They asked those polled if they would take a vaccine if scientific studies found it to be effective, safe, and if free.

The French were the most hesitant with only 44 percent responding 'yes' to the question, followed by Germany and Sweden (56 percent), Belgium and Spain (58 percent), Ukraine (61 percent) and Italy (66 percent.)

In comparison, a poll by Pew last month found almost 70 percent of Americans intend to get a Covid-19 vaccine - or already have been vaccinated.

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