Social media giant Facebook has claimed for months it was fighting against Chinese virus “misinformation,” but only this week removed its “pseudoscience” ad-targeting category.
Reuters reports that Facebook has removed the term “pseudoscience” as an option for advertisers attempting to target specific audiences. The ad targeting category was available up until this week even though the social media giant has vowed for months to crack down on misinformation about the Wuhan coronavirus.
Facebook has also paused the availability of certain other interest categories while it evaluates its list. A Facebook spokesperson has informed Reuters that the term “conspiracy theory” was also removed as an ad-targeting option.
On Wednesday, Facebook removed the pseudoscience category from its “detailed targeting” list after the tech news site The Markup showed that it could advertise a post targeting people interested in pseudoscience, leaving the site vulnerable to the spread of misinformation.
The Markup found that Facebook was allowing these ads on its platform after promising to monitor coronavirus misinformation. Over 78 million Facebook users were listed as interested in “pseudoscience” according to data obtained from Facebook’s ad portal.
The advocacy group Avaaz has reported that a sample of 104 Wuhan coronavirus-related pieces of misinformation content on Facebook was found to have reached 117 million estimated views. Data from ProPublica shows that Facebook assigned the “pseudoscience” term to users as far back as 2016 suggesting that the category has been in use for some time.
The Facebook spokesperson told Reuters that the category should have been removed in a previous review. “We will continue to review our interest categories,” the spokesperson said.
Facebook has been removing content related to the coronavirus that could cause “imminent physical harm” and alerting users who have engaged with misinformation, linking them to the World Health Organization website.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address firstname.lastname@example.org