Facebook has said that it removed seven million posts for spreading harmful misinformation about Covid-19 and labelled an additional 98 million posts that were deemed false between April and June.
Posts that were removed include those that peddled fake preventative measures or exaggerated cures that health organisations deem to be dangerous. Other forms of coronavirus-related misinformation have been labelled by the company's cohort of independent fact-checkers.
Facebook vice-president of integrity Guy Rosen provided the statistics in a press call as the company published its Community Standards Enforcement Report, a quarterly study that details the kind and volume of content it has removed across Facebook and Instagram. The report is split into 12 categories across Facebook and 10 on Instagram, but misinformation is not part of the reported categories.
In the past few months, Rosen said the platform has "prioritised work around harmful content related to Covid-19 that could put people at risk", as well as misinformation related to the upcoming US presidential election. From March to July, it said it removed more than 110,000 pieces of content in the US for violating policies related to misleading people about voting or trying to intimidate them not to vote.
But the company has been operating on a reduced workforce over the past three months. In March, it sent its content reviewers home due to Covid-19 and has relied more heavily on technology to review content.
Rosen said the past few months have demonstrated that content enforcement is "not an either/or approach" between human reviewers and artificial intelligence, but that sophisticated systems need both people and technology. For example, content about suicide and self-injury as well as content about child nudity and sexual exploitation are two areas where Facebook relies on people to review content and train technology. Accordingly, the company took action on fewer pieces of content related to these areas over the past few months.
As it prioritised harmful content, Facebook said the amount of hate speech it took action on increased from 9.6 million posts in the first quarter to 22.5 million in the second quarter. It claimed that 95% of that was detected proactively before anyone reported it – up from 89% in the previous three months. On Instagram, it took action on 3.3 million pieces of hate-speech content. The amount of terrorism content it removed increased from 6.3 million to 8.7 million posts.
Facebook said it would invite external experts to independently audit the metrics used in the report, beginning in 2021.