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2 months ago
Want to Find a Misinformed Public? Facebook’s Already Done It

 
Originally published in The Markup, April 23, 2020.

While vowing to police COVID-19 misinformation on its platform, Facebook let advertisers target users interested in “pseudoscience.”

Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a post pledging to combat misinformation about COVID-19 circulating on Facebook.

“We’ve taken down hundreds of thousands of pieces of misinformation related to COVID-19, including theories like drinking bleach cures the virus or that physical distancing is ineffective at preventing the disease from spreading,” Zuckerberg wrote.

But at the very same time, The Markup found, Facebook was allowing advertisers to profit from ads targeting people that the company believes are interested in “pseudoscience.” According to Facebook’s ad portal, the pseudoscience interest category contained more than 78 million people.

This week, The Markup paid to advertise a post targeting people interested in pseudoscience, and the ad was approved by Facebook.

Using the same tool, The Markup boosted a post targeting people interested in pseudoscience on Instagram, the Facebook-owned platform that is incredibly popular with Americans under 30. The ad was approved in minutes.

We reached out to Facebook asking about the targeting category on Monday morning. After asking for multiple extensions to formulate a response, company spokesperson Devon Kearns emailed The Markup on Wednesday evening to say that Facebook had eliminated the pseudoscience interest category.

To continue reading this article, click here.

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