Updated Dec 12, 2021 - Technology

Facebook exec blames society for COVID misinformation


Longtime Facebook veteran Andrew Bosworth insists that political and COVID-19 misinformation are societal problems rather than issues that have been magnified by social networks.

Why it matters: Critics say Facebook and other social networks have played a significant role in vaccine hesitancy and the spread of political misinformation.

  • "Individual humans are the ones who choose to believe or not believe a thing. They are the ones who choose to share or not share a thing," Bosworth said in an interview with "Axios on HBO."
  • "I don't feel comfortable at all saying they don't have a voice because I don't like what they said."

Bosworth has been leading Facebook's hardware efforts, including those in virtual and augmented reality. Next year he will become CTO for Meta, Facebook's parent company.

Between the lines: Asked whether vaccine hesitancy would be the same with or without social media, Bosworth defended Facebook's role in combatting COVID, noting that the company ran one of the largest information campaigns in the world to spread authoritative information.

  • He said that individuals make the choice whether to listen to that information or to rely on less reputable information spread by friends and family.
  • "That's their choice. They are allowed to do that. You have an issue with those people. You don't have an issue with Facebook. You can't put that on me."

The big picture: Pressed on whether Facebook and others are amplifying those views, Bosworth characterized it as a demand problem rather than one caused by the amount of misinformation on social media.

  • "People want that information," Bosworth said. "I don't believe that the answer is 'I will deny these people the information they seek and I will enforce my will upon them.' "
  • "At some point the onus is, and should be in any meaningful democracy, on the individual."
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