By Nandita Bose
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Attorneys general in 14 U.S. states sent a letter to Facebook Inc chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, asking if the major disseminators of vaccine misinformation on the platform are receiving special treatment from the company.
The line of inquiry was generated after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen used internal documents to reveal that the social media platform implemented a system that exempts high-level users from some or all of its rules.
In the letter, which was sent on Wednesday, the 14 Democratic attorneys general said they were “extremely concerned” by recent reports that Facebook was maintaining lists of members who received special treatment, and wanted to know whether the “Dozen of disinformation “was one of those lists.
The Center for Countering Digital Hate describes the âDozen of Disinformationâ as 12 anti-vaccines that are responsible for nearly two-thirds of the anti-vaccine content circulating on social media platforms.
Facebook spokesperson Alex Burgos pointed to earlier comments from the company that it had deleted more than three dozen Facebook or Instagram pages, groups and accounts linked to the 12 people, including at least one linked to each of the 12, for violating its policies. It also applied penalties to some of their website domains.
COVID-19 disinformation has proliferated during the pandemic on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube. Researchers and lawmakers have long accused Facebook of failing to control harmful content on its platforms.
In July, President Joe Biden said social media platforms like Facebook are âkilling peopleâ for allowing coronavirus vaccine misinformation to be posted on his platform. https://reut.rs/3iZ9ZVC
Haugen, a former product manager for Facebook’s civic disinformation team, left the nearly $ 1 trillion company with tens of thousands of confidential documents and called for transparency on how Facebook incites users to keep scrolling, creating plenty of opportunities for advertisers to reach them.
The letter was sent by the attorneys general of Connecticut, California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington, editing by Peter Cooney)