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Covid-19 and fake news on Facebook

It has been reported that fake news from Facebook isn’t slowing down, with videos containing fake Covid-19 updates and information being shared primarily through the social media website. According to research, fake news spreads six times faster than real news, so we’re taking a look at the top myths shared on Facebook and finding out the truth. 

What’s with all the fake news, Facebook?

It should be noted that it isn’t just Facebook that has a problem with fake news; all social media sites are struggling to respond to misinformation, as well as the bots and groups spreading that misinformation. 

One of the issues with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter is that the sites use recommendations. The recommendation algorithms on these websites are designed to keep us watching, or keep us engaging with social media. Because fake headlines can be more shocking than real news, they get more engagement. The fake news spreads faster, making a lot of money for advertisers in the process, but manipulating a fair amount of people along the way.

If a person joins a conspiracy theory group, that person will be recommended to additional conspiracy theory groups or to watch more videos from people sharing more outlandish conspiracies. More fake news can be shared, and more wild conspiracies put forward for people to like, comment and share themselves. Fake news and conspiracy theories can then escalate incredibly quickly, and have real world consequences.

Myth-busting Covid-19 on Facebook

1. If people stopped getting tested, the government wouldn’t see the number of cases, and we wouldn’t have more lockdowns

A post on Facebook has been suggesting that everyone should stop getting tested, so that it appears that the infection rate is improving and the government doesn’t enforce more local lockdowns. The post has been copied and shared hundreds of times.

The amount of positive Covid-19 test results is one of the metrics that the government uses to measure the impact of the virus; however, there are a number of other metrics that the government uses to track the spread of the virus. There is no evidence to suggest that boycotting testing would delay another lockdown. 

2. The government is bringing in a law that means unlicensed, untested vaccines can be given to people and no one is liable if they go wrong

A few posts on Facebook were suggesting that the government was attempting to pass a law which would allow unlicensed and untested vaccines, and that the manufacturers would not be liable if the vaccines were to cause harm.

This myth seems to have come from the government seeking responses to a consultation on the rules around unlicensed vaccines. Unlicensed and untested however, are not the same thing. All vaccines would still be required to go through three stages of clinical trials. The government would not offer complete immunity, and if the product was defective or did not meet safety standards, the manufacturer would still be liable. This misinformation about vaccines is dangerous because it may discourage people from getting a vaccine when they are made available.

3. Wearing a mask can cause hypercapnia, by making you breathe in too much carbon dioxide.

There have been numerous posts on Facebook stating that wearing a mask is detrimental to health, as well as challenging the statement that wearing a mask reduces the spread of Covid-19. One post stating this had been shared over 600 times. 

Hypercapnia is a condition of elevated blood and tissue concentrations of carbon dioxide. Although there is evidence that some people wearing N95 masks will have an elevated blood carbon dioxide level, and reduced oxygen level, this is not true for face coverings and surgical masks. This misinformation is dangerous as it may discourage people from wearing face masks, which have been scientifically proven to reduce the spread of Covid-19. 

If in doubt, search before you share

We used to challenge these Covid-19 myths. FullFact is the UK’s independent fact checking charity, and has no political affiliation. If you’re in doubt about something you’ve seen posted on social media, check it with FullFact before you share. This helps reduce the spread of misinformation.

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