Facebook censors, threatens Disrn for sharing W.H.O. official's exact words

by Adam Ford · Jun 15th, 2020 1:13 pm
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Last Updated Jun 15th, 2020 at 2:16 pm

Facebook censored a news post from Disrn on Monday and threatened us with having our "overall distribution reduced," our "ability to monetize and advertise removed," and our "ability to register as a news Page removed."

The post flagged by Facebook linked to this Disrn story reporting the words of a World Health Organization official, who said on June 8 that asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus was "very rare." Almost all mainstream news outlets reported this story on June 8, and so did Disrn.

The next day, W.H.O. walked back the comments, and Disrn reported the retraction on that very same day.

Disrn received a warning from Facebook on Monday, accusing the original story of containing "partly false information." The warning also threatened to reduce our visibility on Facebook, demonetize us, and remove our status as a news page:

To fight false news, Facebook reduces the distribution of misleading content while also showing additional reporting on the same topic.

Pages and websites that repeatedly publish or share misleading content will see their overall distribution reduced, their ability to monetize and advertise removed, and their ability to register as a news Page removed. People will also be able to see if a Page has a history of sharing false news.

Deleting the misleading content won't affect these outcomes.

The post shared by Disrn, as well as posts shared by readers, are now covered with a warning that users must click around in order to read the post. The page Facebook directs readers to as a "fact check" is titled People who do not show COVID-19 symptoms can and do transmit it to others; physical distancing and face masks effectively reduce the risk of transmission.

We received messages from several readers who received such warnings for sharing this article.

I also received the same label, notification, and warning on my personal Facebook page for sharing this story.

It's important to note that our original article Facebook censored was merely reporting on the exact words of the health official. There is no editorializing; we reported W.H.O. official Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove's words, and included a video of herself saying the words. The video was from Bloomberg and included three minutes of Kerkhove's monologue, providing context.

We also included reporting from CNBC in our article. CNBC's article, from which we quoted, was (and still is) headlined Asymptomatic spread of coronavirus is ‘very rare,' WHO says. It has not been flagged by Facebook as of publishing time.

Neither have any other mainstream news articles we checked, which say the exact same thing Disrn's article says:

Disrn has reached out to Facebook representatives and asked them to fix this issue; this article will be updated if we get a reply.


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