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Hey there listeners, it’s Brett Molina. Welcome back to Talking Tech. As the COVID pandemic rages on, more than 500 US public healthcare professionals have signed a letter demanding Facebook disclose its data regarding disinformation about the COVID virus and the vaccine. Joining us now to talk about this is USA Today reporter Terry Collins, who writes about this in a story you can read on tech.usatoday.com. Terry, thanks so much for being here.
Thanks again for having me, Brett. I appreciate it.
So let’s start with this letter. What is it that health professionals want from Facebook or Meta?
Oh, yeah. Yeah, of course. So the scrutiny just continues for Facebook and this time it’s my more 500 healthcare professionals who’ve been on the front line battling a pandemic for nearly two years, calling out Facebook to disclose this COVID misinformation data. They want them to be a little more transparent about what kind of information and disinformation is on the platform. They just say the deception must end now.
What has Meta, which of course formally known as Facebook, what has the company’s response been to all this?
The company, I spoke to one of the spokespeople on Friday and they said that they’re working hard to distribute “reliable information” about COVID and the vaccine hesitancy among US Facebook users. They said that that has declined about 50% since January. They said that they’ve removed more than 20 million pieces of content that violate their COVID misinformation practices. They permanently ban thousands of repeat offenders from their services, and connected more than 2 billion people with reliable information about the virus and where to even get a vaccine. But the doctor’s letter said that, “This infodemic has polarized and politicized our society’s dialogue.” I think they’re just at wits end with it and as I said, here we were talking to the doctors who just had been on the front lines, putting their lives at risk and to see, I guess in their eyes, the constant misinformation, disinformation on the world’s largest platform is just enough and too much for them.
So of course, this letter comes out amid a lot of discussion about the inner workings of Facebook that were revealed by a whistleblower who has since testified before Congress and before British Parliament about how Facebook works and in her words, talking about how the company seems to value profits over people. Any sense of what Meta might do about all this is? Is there a sense that they will release this data? How do you expect this to play out?
Great question, Brett. I really don’t know at this point. I know that they’ve taken letter under consideration, considering it’s more than 500 who were planning to put something out just before whistleblower Frances Haugen’s release of the documents, leaked documents. And I think they were just at a point, the doctors being at a point where for them enough is enough. They want the data. They want it now. They want to help Facebook kind of help dispel some of this and maybe have some sort of partnership. I think the ball is over in Meta’s court now, so to speak.
Well, Terry, thanks so much for being here. It was great having you.
Great. Thanks again for having me, Brett. Appreciate it.
And don’t forget, you can read more of Terry’s story on tech.usatoday.com. Listeners, let’s hear from you. Do you have any comments, questions, or show ideas? Any tech problems you want us to try to address? You can find me on Twitter @brettmolina23. Please don’t forget to subscribe and rate us, or leave a review on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, anywhere you get your podcasts. You’ve been listening to Talking Tech. We’ll be back tomorrow with another quick hit from the world of tech.