Facebook has removed “pseudoscience” from the list of categories advertisers can use to target people, following an investigation from The Markup. While no longer available as of Wednesday, the social media platform’s ad portal showed more than 78 million Facebook users were interested in pseudoscience, The Markup reports.
“We’ve removed this targeting option to prevent potential abuse in ads,” a Facebook spokesperson confirmed in an email to The Verge.
It’s curious why Facebook had such a category available, even as the company works to combat misinformation about the novel coronavirus pandemic on its platforms. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post on April 16th that Facebook had added warning labels on 40 million posts “related to COVID-19.”
Coronavirus misinformation and hoaxes have been rampant on social media, including everything from lies about Bill Gates to false claims that 5G towers caused the virus. And overhyped “cures” and treatments have been a particular area of concern.
Zuckerberg said last week that the company was adding a “Get The Facts” section with “articles written by independent fact-checking partners debunking misinformation about the coronavirus” and would connect people who had “previously engaged with harmful misinformation about COVID-19” to accurate information.
Among the new initiatives Facebook announced was a box that will appear for people who liked, reacted to, or commented on a post that Facebook later removed for misinformation, with a link to the World Health Organization’s website.
The new initiatives to battle coronavirus misinformation followed a report by human rights group Avaaz, which found 100 pieces of misinformation regarding the virus on Facebook were shared more than 1.7 million times and viewed about 117 million times. Avaaz urged Facebook to inform anyone who has viewed coronavirus misinformation on its platforms and tell them exactly what was incorrect.