Left Behind: How Facebook is neglecting Europe's infodemic

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Executive Summary

Facebook’s "America First" approach to fighting misinformation fails

to protect European citizens

 A majority (56%) of fact-checked misinformation content in major non-English

European languages 1 is not acted upon by Facebook,

compared to only 26% of

English-language content debunked by US-based fact checkers.

This means Europeans are at greater risk of seeing and interacting with



Italian speakers are least protected from misinformation, with

measures lacking for 69% of

Italian content examined. 3  Next are French and Portuguese speakers,

with measures

lacking on 58% of French content 4 and 50% of Portuguese content.

 5  Spanish

speakers were most protected, though measures lacked for 33% of

Spanish language

content, 6  which is still more than English content

Based on our sample analysis, on average, Facebook is almost one

week slower to label non-English false content, taking 30 days for that content

compared to 24 days for English-language false content.

Facebook’s fight against the infodemic has failed to make an impact one year

Despite a number of commendable steps to fight the ongoing infodemic, 

Facebook's action on

fact-checked misinformation slightly decreased compared to last year 7 (55% in 2021 vs 56% in 20

The average delay between post publication and Facebook labelling was 28 days in 2

The platform fails to detect and label exact copies, "clones" or slightly altered,

 "variants" of

false claims , i.e. minor changes to format or narrative on claims that have been debunked and already

labelled on the platform.

 51 such "clones" and "variants" reached an estimated 807,746 total interactions,

and 63% of this

content is missing warning labels by Facebook. 8

The top misinformation narratives we identified risk boosting vaccine hesitancy, and deter mask use

The top misinformation narrative we identified (36 posts, 1.4M interactions) is

about vaccine side effects, including death.

One example is this false item about Bill Gates ,

who was claimed to have said during an interview that "[...] for every 10,000 people there

would be permanent vaccination damage, including 700,000 expected deaths". 9   

(29,050 interactions

The second top COVID-19 misinformation narrative was around

false official measures or

warnings (16 posts, 536K interactions) See example here .

The third top narrative was against masks, claiming they are either dangerous or useless.

As an example, harmful misinformation claims that

using masks leads to cancer and other


We found 12 examples of this "clone" or "variant"- 92% unlabelled.

See two examples here and here .

Together, the 12 posts 10 have reached 118,288 interactions.

EU must roll out strong regulation to inoculate against the infodemic


 Social media self-regulation has failed: one year into the ongoing pandemic, 

Facebook has not kept its promise to fully identify COVID-19- and vaccine-

related misinformation in Europe

The current EU Code of Practice on Disinformation does not cover the failures

identified in this report. That is why we urgently need a revised version that

pushes social media giants to disclose the amount of misinformation on

their platforms

and set clear goals for its reduction, monitored by an

independent regulator.

A new code will only be effective if it asks social media platforms to

notify all users

who have interacted with misinformation that they have done so

and to reduce the

algorithmic acceleration of misinformation content and actors.

The analysis in this report is based on a sample of misinformation

detected by

our investigation team that was also fact checked by independent fact checkers.

Facebook is not transparent and does not provide data,

which would allow for amore detailed analysis on the full scale of misinformation on

its platform.

The EU Code of Practice must require more transparency from the platform to

help researchers understand the full reach and harm caused by such content.

Key Findings

For this study we have analysed 135 pieces of misinformation content in five

different languages

(English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese) that were posted in

late 2020 or early 2021 and

were rated false and misleading by reputable, independent fact checkers.

In the graphs that follow

we compare our analysis with the one we performed in 2020 ,

using exactly the same methodology used in the report we released in

the pandemic's first months.

For more information please refer to the Methodology and Data section.


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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