Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has just announced that he will be giving up the entire company for Thanksgiving week Facebook Security chief Alex Stamos agrees: After fighting the threat of online misinformation in the 2020 elections, technicians deserve a break.
But a week might be too long, Stamos thinks, before they have to turn their attention to what he sees as the next big disinformation battle on social media: Covid-19 Vaccine information.
The good news, in his view, is how much work technology companies and the government are doing Combat misinformation leading to election day, can be carried over to the war against Covid-19 vaccination. The mistake would be not to make this transition completely and quickly.
“A lot of work has gone into this election, and we cannot let this work go to waste on November 4th and make no more progress on disinformation,” said Stamos, who now heads the Stanford Internet Observatory CNBC Technology Executive Council Summit this week. “And in the US, Covid and vaccines will be the most critical, which will hopefully come out next year. The main disinformation campaigns will be on Covid.”
Given the potential severity of the problem, news organizations need to help by getting the headlines right and not inadvertently spreading misinformation, he said, referring to a recent tweet he sent that caught the eye for hitting the Washington Post for a story A person who died in a vaccine trial, creating confusion about the cause of death – the subject was given a placebo, not the experimental vaccine.
“We need to allow scientists to do their job, measure the risk and look at all the details, and the vaccine problem has become a geostrategic problem,” said Stamos.
Several consortia are tied to governments, and some are tied, for example, to very important companies in China backed by the Chinese Communist Party, which has positioned its vaccine candidates as Chess pieces fighting for global influence. Russia has several Vaccine projects are ongoing, including one developed by a biotech company that was once a Soviet-era biological weapons laboratory.
“There could be a lot of interest in saying that other companies’ vaccines are bad,” Stamos said.
“We need the same kind of cooperation … to keep vaccines safe, and we already have a subculture in the US that is very skeptical and will harass people who promote vaccines,” Stamos said. “We are in a very dangerous place,” he added, pointing out the possibility for a foreign adversary to use misinformation and more targeted propaganda and disinformation to endanger the health of the United States.
In fact, recent poll data from Pew Research shows that there is cause for concern Vaccine distrust in a growing segment the American public, and not just limited to one subculture.
A September report from Pew showed that Americans who say they would be vaccinated for the coronavirus Half of US adults (51%) told Pew in September that they would “definitely or likely” receive a vaccine for Covid-19 if it was available, but almost as many (49%). ) say that they would definitely or probably not be vaccinated. The overall intention to get a vaccine decreased from 72% in Maya decrease of 21 percentage points. And the proportion who would “definitely” receive a coronavirus vaccine fell by half to 21%.
A health worker holds blood samples for a Covid-19 vaccine during clinical trials at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.
Eva Marie Uzcategui | Bloomberg | Getty Images
“Anyone on Facebook can take the day off after the election and then have to work again on November 5th to provide exactly the same responses we saw to the election disinformation,” said Stamos, adding that one Covid war room a necessity similar to the election war room companies like Facebook have now.
Alexis Wichowski, assistant CTO for innovation in the New York Mayor’s office, who spoke to Stamos at the CNBC TEC virtual summit, said while federal agencies have the greatest reach, technology companies currently don’t need to have faith in the federal government either employ state and local governments. “The more local we are, the better the chance of tackling the vaccine disinformation,” she said.
Stamos fears that while it is clear who exactly is responsible for the federal government’s election disinformation efforts, including the post-2016 CISA division of the Department of Homeland Security and the military’s Cyber Command, there is no clear lead agency for Covid- There is misinformation in Washington, DC
One benefit in combating misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines compared to the 2020 election version is that political speeches are more difficult to call facts or fictions than science.
“We have scientific experts with generally accepted truths that they can reach,” he said.
But Stamos warned that even there the problem was complicated. He cited the early days of the March pandemic outbreak when the CDC did not advise the public to wear masks, versus a “really crazy idea” like that wearing masks increases the chances of getting Covid-19.
“It’s a fast moving situation, and while there are experts … those experts’ opinions change when the research changes.”
The technology companies have these guidelines in place to flag misinformation. However, this is not easy when there are no direct, fixed truths. As a society, we must be careful when asking intermediaries to censor the language when the “absolute truth” is not yet known in a particular situation.
“When you talk about vaccines … there will be very complicated, contradicting information and we need information centers that are similar to what we had for the elections,” said Stamos. “Facebook should aim to have four million people vaccinated, which it wouldn’t otherwise, just as they registered four million,” he said.