Jul 2, 2019

Facebook changes algorithm to fight sensational health claims

Photo: SOPA Images/Getty Images

Facebook announced Tuesday that it is changing its algorithm to weed out news that is misleading about causes and cures around health conditions. The announcement was made following a Wall Street Journal report detailing examples of posts that promote spammy or misleading health care cures.

Why it matters: Experts cite online misinformation on Facebook and other platforms for creating real-world health problems. Most recently, platforms like Facebook have been blamed for harboring anti-vaccination content, which many argue helped lead to an outbreak of measles cases in the U.S.

Driving the news: Facebook said last month it made two updates to the way it ranks content in its News Feed to reduce posts with exaggerated or sensational health claims and posts attempting to sell products or services based on health-related claims.

  1. It now considers down-ranking posts about health care that exaggerate or mislead, like sensational claims about miracle cures.
  2. It also now considers if a post promotes a product or service based on a health-related claim, like promoting a medication claiming to help someone lose weight.

Between the lines: YouTube has also been taking some action against bad health care content by cutting off advertising for bogus cancer-treatment channels, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • Facebook and YouTube tell the Journal that they're taking specific action against cancer-related content after the Journal presented the companies with examples of promotional and spammy posts it found on their platforms that promised miracle cures or bogus health services.

Be smart: Many of these scams and hoaxes, like clickbait, are created to drive clicks that can lead to ad farms or are meant to scam people into buying products or services that are not approved by regulators for consumption.

The big picture: Facebook has mostly figured out how to weed out scam posts that have been uploaded by bots, but it's had a much harder time filtering out content uploaded by humans that doesn't explicitly violate its rules.

  • Facebook is now establishing more boundaries around what's acceptable on its platform and what's not to be able to tailor filter algorithms around those standards.

Go deeper: Anti-vaccination content haunts Big Tech

Go deeper

Top Trump ally sounds 2020 election alarm over coronavirus response

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

There is growing concern among top conservative leaders that the Trump administration isn't addressing the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus, several sources tell Axios. One top adviser said if the recovery is bungled it could cost President Trump the election.

What we're hearing: "The next 4-8 weeks is really going to decide whether Trump gets reelected," Stephen Moore, Trump's former nominee for the Federal Reserve board, told Axios. If the administration mishandles its economic recovery efforts, he said, Trump is "in big trouble."

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,600,427 — Total deaths: 95,506 — Total recoveries: 354,006Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 465,329 — Total deaths: 16,513 — Total recoveries: 25,410Map.
  3. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under a CDC public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  4. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — After another 6.6 million jobless claims, here's how to understand the scale of American job decimation.
  5. 2020 latest: Top conservative leaders are concerned the Trump administration isn't addressing the virus' long-term economic impact.
  6. States latest: FEMA has asked governors to decide if they want testing sites to be under state or federal control.
  7. World latest: Lockdowns have led to a decline in murders in some of the world's most violent countries — Boris Johnson is moved out of the ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  8. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
  9. 1 SNL thing: "Saturday Night Live" will return this weekend in a remotely produced episode.
  10. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredPets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Federal court temporarily blocks coronavirus order against some abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott. Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Thursday that clinics in Texas can immediately offer medication abortions — a pregnancy termination method administered by pill — and can also provide the procedure to patients nearing the state's time limits for abortions.

Driving the news: The decision comes after federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy