Facebook to tackle content with misleading health claims

Facebook to tackle content with misleading health claims

A 3-D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed binary code in this illustration picture
A 3-D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed binary code in this illustration picture, June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Files

REUTERS: Facebook Inc said on Tuesday (Jul 2) it was taking steps to reduce promotion of products based on misleading health-related claims.

In a blog post, Facebook said it had made two updates last month to reduce posts with exaggerated or sensational health claims. 

Facebook said it made changes last month as part of efforts to reduce the spread of misleading medical claims including from groups opposing the use of recommended vaccines.

"In order to help people get accurate health information and the support they need, it's imperative that we minimise health content that is sensational or misleading," Facebook product manager Travis Yeh said in a blog post.

"We handled this in a similar way to how we've previously reduced low-quality content like clickbait: by identifying phrases that were commonly used in these posts to predict which posts might include sensational health claims or promotion of products with health-related claims, and then showing these lower in news feed."

The update will not have a major impact on users' news feed.

The Wall Street Journal had earlier reported that Facebook and YouTube were filled with "harmful information" about health treatments.

The Journal report, based on interviews with doctors, lawyers, privacy experts and others, found numerous false or misleading claims about cancer therapies online.

These included videos advocating the use of cell-killing ointments that could be dangerous, unverified dietary regimes, or unvalidated screening techniques.

YouTube said it has been working for some time to reduce the spread of misinformation on the platform.

"Misinformation is a difficult challenge and any misinformation on medical topics is especially concerning," a YouTube spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

"We've taken a number of steps to address this including surfacing more authoritative content across our site for people searching for cancer treatment-related topics, beginning to reduce recommendations of certain medical misinformation videos and showing information panels with more sources where they can fact check information for themselves."

Source: Agencies/ec