Only Facebook knows the extent of its misinformation problem. And it’s not sharing, even with the White House.

The White House, academics and other researchers have struggled as the company locks down its data about the insurrection and vaccines

Washington Post
August 19, 2021

In tense meetings between Facebook executives and White House officials tasked with fighting the pandemic in recent months, Biden’s team begged the social network giant for something only Facebook possessed: its data.

Facebook’s vast data trove could be crucial to understanding how medical misinformation has spread rampantly on the company’s platforms — and more importantly, to overcoming the skepticism about vaccines that had arisen from it, according to three administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Discussions came to a head last month, when President Biden fell short of his vaccination goals and said platforms like Facebook were “killing people.” (He subsequently backed away from the comment.)

Officials thought Facebook was hiding, filibustering and deflecting, according to three people involved in the discussions, in contrast to the White House’s conversations with YouTube and Twitter about anti-vaccine misinformation, which the officials thought were more productive...

As long as tech platforms can control the data, they wield great power over efforts to hold them accountable, said Rebekah Tromble, director of the Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics at George Washington University. Without data, researchers and experts are unable to effectively examine claims about their role in vaccine misinformation and other ills.

“Until we get a better handle on what the potential harms are, or the scale of potential harms, we can’t do anything to fix them,” Tromble said.

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