Dozens of popular Facebook pages are publishing, repeating and sharing false stories about the new coronavirus in Europe, according to a new report.
NewsGuard, an analytics company that tracks wrong information, investigated 36 Facebook pages, which describes as "super spreaders" of false information.
The offensive pages had more than 40,000 likes on Facebook and a combined number of followers of more than 13 million users.
NewsGuard found that fraudulent social media pages target audiences in English, French, German and Italian.
The findings were made public despite Facebook's recent efforts to contain the wrong information on the platform.
Conspiracy theories and false cures
In its report, NewsGuard highlighted examples of misinformation that was still available on Facebook on May 4, from false cures to virus and conspiracy theories about its spread and transmission.
In all four languages, Facebook pages were found to share myths that the new coronavirus had been created in the laboratory or designed as a biological weapon, although no evidence supports the theory.
The French Facebook page of the conservative website Epoch Times, which has almost 1.3 million likes, shared an article, which contained this false claim. The February post, which suggests that COVID-19 was created artificially, was shared more than 1,200 times.
In another video in French, a Congolese pastor is filmed describing the coronavirus as an "artificial poison". On May 6, the video was viewed more than 856,000 times and shared by more than 28,000 users.
Meanwhile, in Germany, the same "artificial" conspiracy theory was shared on the Facebook page of Compact, a magazine that published content from the right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).
The world health organization says most other viruses in the coronavirus family originate from animals.
The possible animal source of COVID-19 has not yet been confirmed, but the research is ongoing.
Another German page associated with Austrian author and naturopathic doctor Ruediger Dahlke, who has more than 176,000 likes, published the false claim that the flu vaccine is "dangerous because it promotes coronavirus infection".
Health experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have further denied this claim by explaining that flu vaccines are derived from influenza viruses, a different family of COVID-19 viruses.
In Italy, NewsGuard found that several Facebook pages shared the same rumor that lemon and hot water were a possible cure for COVID-19.
One article, published by FanMagazine.it, was 61 times on nine of the 10 Facebook pages seen in the image below.
Virologists have Euronews said that this alleged cure is false, considering the reaction of the coronavirus under different acidic conditions.
And in the UK, NewsGuard found a Facebook page associated with the EnergyTherapy.biz website, which shared the conspiracy theory that 5G technology is linked dissemination of COVID-19.
WHO also released a "mythologist" unmasking the rumor that viruses can travel on radio waves or mobile networks.
While Facebook pages used different tactics to reach audiences online, NewsGuard found no evidence of coordinated activity between groups.
Facebook advocates & # 39; warning labels & # 39;
Social media platforms like Facebook are under intense pressure to monitor and contain the wrong information during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But NewsGuard says that only three of the twenty fake French posts in its report displayed a warning on Facebook that the information was false and had been verified.
In addition, the analytics company says that only one post in Germany and none in Italy in the data set have been flagged.
Facebook says it is making efforts to inform users if they have viewed or been involved with wrong information online on its platform.
"We removed hundreds of thousands of harmful information and applied warning labels from independent verifiers to 40 million posts in March alone," a company spokesman on Facebook told Euronews.
The social media giant also said it is distributing health information in its apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp.
"So far, we have directed more than 2 billion people to health authority resources through our COVID-19 Information Center – with more than 350 million people accessing to learn more," added the spokesman.
Facebook too invested $ 100 million (92.5 million euros) in the news industry, in addition to supporting fact verification organizations.
The company also created an online hub, for external groups, dedicated to unmasking incorrect coronavirus information.
Several posts and pages in English and French cited by NewsGuard have been removed by Facebook.