Facebook won't recommend 'health' groups anymore to cut down on spread of misinformation

Facebook will no longer show health groups in its recommendations, the social media giant announced on Thursday, saying it was crucial that people get health information from "authoritative sources".

Over the last year, the company took down more than 1 million groups that violated Facebook's policies on misinformation and harmful content, it said in a blog post here.

Misleading health content has racked up an estimated 3.8 billion views on Facebook over the past year, peaking during the coronavirus pandemic, advocacy group Avaaz said in a report here last month.

Facebook, under pressure to curb such misinformation on its platform, has made amplifying credible health information a key element of its response. It also removes certain false claims about COVID-19 that it determines could cause imminent harm.

"People can still invite friends to health groups or search for them," Tom Alison, VP of engineering, said in the post.

Facebook said in the blog post that it also now limits the spread of groups tied to violence by removing them from its recommendations and searches, and soon, by reducing their content in its news feed. Last month, it removed nearly 800 QAnon conspiracy groups for posts celebrating violence, showing intent to use weapons, or attracting followers with patterns of violent behavior.

"We now limit the spread of these groups by removing them from recommendations, restricting them from search, and soon reducing their content in News Feed. We also remove these groups when they discuss potential violence, even if they use veiled language and symbols."

The world's largest social network also said it would bar administrators and moderators of groups that have been taken down for policy violations from creating any new groups for a period of time.

"In the coming weeks, we’ll begin archiving groups that have been without an admin for some time," said Alison. "Moving forward, when a single remaining admin chooses to step down, they can invite members to become admins. 

"If no invited members accept, we will suggest admin roles to members who may be interested. If no one accepts, we’ll archive the group."

Reuters / Newshub.