Reps. Gomez, Pocan Demand Facebook Root Out COVID Misinformation

LOS ANGELES – Today, Representatives Jimmy Gomez (CA-34) and Mark Pocan (WI-02) wrote a letter today to Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and CEO of Facebook, demanding information as to why anti-vaccination activists that shut down Dodger Stadium—one of the largest COVID-19 vaccination centers in the nation—were allowed to organize and spread misinformation about COVID-19 on Facebook and what new actions Facebook will take to find and remove similar efforts on their platform. The letter comes after a Facebook page with almost 3,000 followers was able to organize an anti-vaccination protest across multiple groups on the platform and successfully shut down Dodger Stadium this weekend—a vaccination center administering up to 8,000 vaccine shots a day.

“Facebook prides itself on being a place where users can make meaningful connections, but as we’ve seen over the weekend in my congressional district, ‘anti-vaxxers’ leveraged this social network to disrupt the largest COVID-19 vaccination site in the City of Los Angeles during a time when the virus is killing a neighbor of ours every six minutes,” said Representative Gomez. “The conspiracy theories exchanged on Facebook on a daily basis are cultivating a perilous environment for our constituents during this public health emergency. Social networking companies like Facebook not only have to take responsibility for their role in this crisis, but also work to take swift action in ridding their platform of dangerous misinformation.”

“Big Tech corporations like Facebook have a duty to combat deadly misinformation as our nation combats a global pandemic that has taken the lives of over 430,000 people in our country,” said Representative Pocan. “Time and time again, we hear promises from companies like Facebook that vow to root out misinformation from their massive platforms and time and time again they fall short of doing their jobs. Los Angeles County leads the nation in COVID cases and deaths—with 6,411 dead in January alone. California and our country cannot afford anymore interruptions to our vaccine distribution, Facebook has a job to do, it’s time they do it.”

The full text of the letter is below. For a PDF of the letter, please click here.

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

We write with grave concern about this weekend’s shut down of Dodger Stadium, one of the largest COVID-19 vaccination centers in the nation, by a group of anti-vaccination individuals who organized the effort on Facebook. Despite your pledge to remove content containing misinformation about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and also misinformation about the coronavirus itself, a page on your platform with almost 3,000 followers was allowed to organize this weekend’s action.

California is currently being ravaged by COVID-19.  Among those affected, communities of color, immigrant communities, frontline low-wage workers and other vulnerable communities bear the brunt of the pandemic. In response, the vaccination center at Dodger Stadium has been administering as many as 8,000 vaccine shots a day.  It is crucial to the fight against COVID-19, and to ensuring society can move beyond this pandemic, that such public health efforts are not interrupted. Any disruption to similar mass vaccinations sites can easily lead to unnecessary infections and deaths.

In response to this reality, and out of concern that anti-vaccination activists may view this weekend’s incident as an example of how to disrupt similar public health efforts across the country, we wish to know the following:

1)  How was this effort allowed to organize on Facebook through a page with almost 3,000 followers that linked to websites devoted to the baseless “Plandemic” narrative and misinformation pertaining to mask-wearing efficacy; and

2)  What new actions, specifically, are you taking to ensure similar pages and efforts on Facebook are found and removed? 

Lives are literally hanging in the balance of your corporate actions and decisions, you must do more.  Congress is closely watching your response.  We will not hesitate to act in this matter should it be required.

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