Is facebook killing people? The answer is more complicated.


  • President Biden said Facebook is killing people, but that’s only partly true.
  • Facebook’s record of trekking the truth is spotty at best.
  • Facebook repeatedly lied about the reach of its ads to brands.
  • Facebook has not made ANY significant investments in policing its content.
  • Facebook’s algorithm rewards and encourages engagement with content that provokes strong emotions.
  • Only when advertisers cut back on Facebook will they realize they must change.

President Biden’s remark that “Facebook is killing people” is both right and wrong. It’s actually ironic that you can go to Facebook jail for “bullying” someone yet the site continues to have posts that are anti-science and worse.

Bob Hoffman writes “according to a report in Business Insider,

  • “Facebook is ‘overwhelmingly’ used by sex traffickers who recruit victims online”
  • 59% of all sex trafficking recruitment occurred on Facebook last year
  • Facebook found over 20 million images of child sex abuse on its site
  • According to the Human Trafficking Institute most online recruitment for sex trafficking occurs on Facebook.
  • “Snapchat, WeChat, and Facebook’s Instagram were also hotspots for recruitment.”

Of course most of smart marketers understand that Facebook has been lying for years. Again Mr Hoffman relays the trust around Facebook:

TechCrunch reported that according to emails and other info unsealed for the first time in a court case…
   – COO Sheryl Sandberg knew for years that Facebook was over-estimating the reach of FB ads. 
   – Facebook’s product manager for their tool that estimated “potential reach” warned the company that it was making fraudulent representations to advertisers.
   – An email from one employee asked, “how long can we get away with the reach overestimation?”
   – In 2017 Sandburg  “acknowledged in an internal email she had known about problems with potential reach for years.” 
   – Although they knew their reach estimates were bullshit, they refused to implement fixes proposed by employees.
   – Facebook resisted correcting their lies because fixing the problem would reduce their “estimated reach” by 10% and would have a significant impact on revenue. When a proposal to correct the lies was rejected, the executive making the proposal said, “It’s revenue we should have never made given the fact it’s based on wrong data.”

I actually find it amazing that brands are still begging Facebook to take their ad money, but nobody ever said that marketers had a lot of sense.

Facebook could have easily used some of their billions of dollars of profits to help weed out inaccurate medical information. Health misinformation on Facebook was viewed 3.8 billion times in the past year, peaking during the Covid-19 crisis, a report suggests.

A significant amount of health misinformation was shared from public pages.And 42 of those pages were followed by more than 28 million people.

The type of content highlighted includes:

  • 8.4 million views for an article claiming Bill Gates backed a polio vaccination that led to the paralysis of half a million children in India
  • 4.5 million views for an article containing bogus cures for deadly diseases, such as colloidal silver for Ebola
  • 2.4 million views for an article claiming quarantine harmed public health.

The Times also reported that “Facebook’s algorithm rewards and encourages engagement with content that provokes strong emotions, which is exactly the kind of content we warn patients to doubt and carefully assess since false information is often packaged as novel and sensational.

No Facebook alone isn’t responsible for the assault on science regarding vaccines, but they certainly have a set at the table. As long as marketers continue to give Facebook ad dollars willingly, there is no incentive to change.

About richmeyer

Rich is a passionate marketer who is able to quickly understand what turns a prospect into a customer. He challenges the status quo and always asks "what can we do better"? He knows how to take analytics and turn them into opportunities and he is a great communicator.

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