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Coronavirus Disinformation Video Seen 20M Times Before Facebook Took It Down

Casey Newton, writing for The Interface:

As I wrote at the time, the problem was not that the platforms were ignoring the video — it was that, at their scale, even the few hours it took them to research the issue were enough for “Plandemic” to get all the way around the world. “It likely won’t be the last piece of harmful misinformation about COVID-19 that becomes a blockbuster,” I wrote back then. “And when the next one comes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that the pathway to virality leads straight through Facebook groups.”

Indeed, on Monday we got the sequel. And Facebook groups played a significant role.

NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny:

That Breitbart video from the doctors claiming that Hydroxychloroquine cures the coronavirus has been going crazy in anti-vax, anti-mask, reopen Facebook Groups today. It’s at >20 mil views on FB. And that doesn’t include all the private groups it’s been spreading through.

This exemplifies why this isn’t a free speech issue. Facebook isn’t (merely) a host for this video, it’s the facilitator for spreading it to tens of millions of people.

And scale is no excuse. Surely there are very few videos that reach this many people so quickly. A million views per hour is over 250 views per second. It’s laughable to argue that Facebook isn’t responsible for immediately taking notice of such a video. Think about a large casino. There might be thousands of people gambling at any moment. Casino management can’t pay attention to them all. But if someone starts wagering at a pace of, say, $1 million per hour — over $15,000 per minute, every minute — yeah, I’d say casino management is going to take a close look at that person very quickly.

Could be it’s on the up and up. The casino gambler might be an honest whale. The viral Facebook video might be a dog riding a skateboard. But if the gambler is an obvious cheat the casino is going to give them a tap on the shoulder within minutes. That ought to be the case for a harmful video on Facebook too.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020