Adequate COVID-19 vaccine distribution still seems like the greatest obstacle to slowing the spread of the pandemic, but if you’re looking to worry about the other threat that’s still blocking progress — an unwillingness to take the vaccine at all — and the creative efforts on Facebook that are going into stopping it, you should go read this FiveThirtyEight report.
Facebook’s taken steps to combat misinformation related to the pandemic, removing false claims about COVID-19 vaccines and banning ads that discourage vaccine use, but reporter Kaleigh Rogers highlights some of the more direct outreach that pro-vaccine activists are doing to combat misinformation. From “honeypot” Facebook groups designed to capture the anti-vax curious to direct outreach from groups like C.I.C.A.D.A. (Community Immunity Champions and Defenders Association) flooding comments with positive vaccine information, there’s a daily struggle to change minds (and dunk on the misinformed).
The larger problem remains, though: Facebook’s advertising-based business can often incentivize emotional reactions to posts that drive people into the arms of the anti-vax movement. COVID-19’s popularity as a topic of discussion on Facebook has made it even easier for anti-vaxxers to reuse false narratives about the “dangers” of vaccines to quickly bring people into the fold.
Until Facebook comes up with a new way to combat misinformation or changes how its algorithm chooses to surface posts, this kind of work will remain important. Rogers summarizes those efforts well, along with the obvious problem of Facebook’s core design. You can read the whole article on FiveThirtyEight.