Twitter bots entered the popular political consciousness during the 2016 campaign. Trolls and artificial accounts were blamed with everything from spreading misinformation to swaying the final vote. Their ultimate effect on actual vote tallies may be something scientists -- both data and political -- try to figure out, but we do know that bots can fuel discord. A surprising number of posts on social media are made by bots. And while Twitter and Facebook have been trying to make sure fewer people see misinformation, it's still there.
If it seems like there's a lot of misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic on Facebook, that's because there is: Between April and June, the social network says it removed 7 million posts for spreading harmful misinformation about COVID-19. It added labels to an additional 98 million posts, which were deemed false by fact checkers, but didn't rise to the level of outright removal. The company released the statistics alongside its community standards enforcement report, which details content takedowns on the social network. Facebook doesn't typically include misinformation statistics in these reports, but the company has imposed stricter rules for claims about the coronavirus that pose "imminent harm." The company removes posts that spread false claims about cures or treatments for COVID-19, as well as other misinformation health organizations say is dangerous.
Facebook has taken down the official page of conspiracy theorist David Icke for publishing "health misinformation that could cause physical harm". Mr Icke has made several false claims about coronavirus, such as suggesting 5G mobile phone networks are linked to the spread of the virus. In one video, he suggested a Jewish group was behind the virus. Following the ban, his Twitter account posted: "Fascist Facebook deletes David Icke - the elite are TERRIFIED." Facebook said in a statement: "We have removed this Page for repeatedly violating our policies on harmful misinformation''.