Steak-umm just schooled the internet on misinformation. Facebook, Twitter, and Google should take notes.

Steak-umm
A Steak-umm promotional image.

  • Frozen meat company Steak-umm fired off a tweetstorm Thursday about, in part, misinformation.
  • It also posted about cultural polarization, media literacy, and other topics.
  • The likes of Facebook and Twitter, tasked with policing false info, could take a cue from Steak-umm’s insight.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The most recent lesson on misinformation came from an unlikely teacher: the frozen meat company, Steak-umm. And Facebook, Twitter, and Google should take notes.

The Pennsylvania-based brand on Thursday posted a “beefy thread” on Twitter about “societal distrust in experts and institutions, the rise of misinformation, cultural polarization, and how to work toward some semblance of mutually agreed upon information before we splinter into irreconcilable realities.”

Steak-umm said “one universal goal everyone should prioritize is getting people from across the ideological spectrum closer to the same reality of baseline facts and evidence,” a difficult feat given in part the expansive nature of online platforms and “people’s access to infinite information.”

The company also said there can be shortcomings with experts and institutions, but that doesn’t make “fringe sources equally credible or trustworthy.”

Steak-umm didn’t name any names in its thread, but the challenges it discussed have been faced by Facebook, Google, and Twitter for years. Things have only intensified in difficulty since March 2020 as the group controls how much misinformation people see – and can therefore be influenced by – online. False information surrounding the coronavirus disease, political conspiracies, and the election specifically has taken center stage.

The companies have attempted to flag information they deemed to be misleading, including from those spreading fringe ideology, prompting backlash from some on the right who claim the platforms are censoring viewpoints they don’t agree with.

But some groups and posts, like those centered around the “Stop the Steal” campaign alleging the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, were allowed to proliferate before Facebook cracked down on them.

It’s perhaps not completely surprising that a meat corporation is schooling the internet on the spread of false information. Steak-umm has been using its Twitter platform to crusade against coronavirus conspiracy theories since last year. It’s also gone on “tweetstorm rants” about scientific literacy, woke brands, and other topics.

It has set the brand apart, with its steady stream of social awareness commentary (the company swapped “mistakes” for “misteaks” and “meet” with “meat” throughout its Thursday thread.)

Brands at large have felt pressure to take stances on political and social issues using their social media accounts in the last year, including on the 2020 presidential election and on racism.

But Steak-umm has taken that to the next level, slicing through the noise and serving up logic-laden tweets.

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How JFK’s nephew became one of Facebook’s most prolific anti-vax misinformation spreaders

robert f kennedy jr
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy. He’s also one of 12 people found to be spreading the most misinformation online.

  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is one of the “disinformation dozen” spreading vaccine misinformation online.
  • He cemented himself as a prominent anti-vaxxer long before the pandemic.
  • Here’s how the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy became an online anti-vax influencer.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A recent report found that most COVID-19 disinformation online is spread by just 12 people – and one of them is the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy.

Robert F Kennedy Jr. cemented himself as a prominent anti-vaccine advocate well before the pandemic. But his rhetoric took on a whole new meaning when the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world in March 2020.

Here’s how 67-year-old Kennedy, who is also the son of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, became one of the “disinformation dozen” spreading COVID-19 conspiracy theories online.

From government law student to Fauci foe and anti-vaxxer

robert f kennedy jr
Kennedy in 2017.

Kennedy graduated from Harvard, attended law school at the University of Virginia, and then earned his master’s in environmental law at Pace University, according to Vanity Fair.

He gained a reputation for defending Indigenous groups and fighting against the use of fossil fuels , all while rubbing shoulders with Hollywood elite at climate change awareness events and other social functions.

But he veered into anti-vax circles in the 1990s when he co-founded the Food Allergy Initiative. He started entertaining theories that some allergies were linked to vaccines given to children. He edited and wrote multiple books about what he said was inadequate vaccine safety, including “Vaccine Villains: What the American Public Should Know About the Industry.”

He founded the World Mercury Project in 2016, which became the Children’s Health Defense in 2018, an activist organization devoted to anti-vaccine initiatives. The group alleges, among other things, that administering some vaccines in children can cause conditions such as autism and cancer.

And Kennedy will release a new book this fall entitled “The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health.”

fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci, on June 30, 2020

That’s where Facebook comes in.

The book explores what Kennedy describes as Fauci’s botched handling of the pandemic and how he staged an “assault on our First Amendment guarantee of free speech.”

“Fauci’s Silicon Valley and media allies dutifully censored criticism of his policies on mainstream social media and collaborated to muzzle any medical information about therapies and treatments that might end the pandemic and compete with vaccines,” it alleges.

Internet platforms have attempted to crack down on vaccine misinformation during the pandemic, prompting allegations of censorship on the right.

The book also alleges that Fauci and Gates “worked together to finance and promote the very gain-of-function experiments in Wuhan that may have released the COVID-19 pathogen.”

Kennedy told Biden that ‘vaccines cause injuries and death’

biden vaccine
President Joe Biden receives a coronavirus vaccine.

In a March letter addressed to President Joe Biden, Kennedy alleged that vaccines could be causing injuries and deaths and implored the US to identify more of such cases.

He also alleged that the CDC was brushing cases under the rug and was working “with the media and social media sites to remove and censor these reports.”

Biden said in mid-July that Facebook and other online platforms are “killing people” by allowing health misinformation to proliferate.

He was kicked off Instagram for posting ‘debunked claims’

robert f kennedy jr
Kennedy in 2016.

Kennedy took many of these viewpoints to his social media accounts.

Facebook said in February that it removed Kennedy’s account because he was “repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines.”

But Kennedy is still very active on other sites, like Twitter for example.

He regularly shares posts from his anti-vax organization, such as one on Wednesday featuring a scientist who purported to have found evidence between COVID vaccines and neurodegenerative disorders.

Others in the Kennedy bloodline notably don’t share his stance on vaccines.

In a 2019, Kennedy’s siblings – Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Joseph P Kennedy II – and niece – Maeve Kenned McKean – penned an essay in Politico entitled “RFK Jr. is Our Brother and Uncle. He’s Tragically Wrong About Vaccines.”

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A man used AI to bring back his deceased fiancé. But the creators of the tech warn it could be dangerous and used to spread misinformation.

GPT-3 is a computer program that attempts to write like humans.
GPT-3 is a computer program that attempts to write like humans.

  • A man used artificial intelligence (AI) to create a chatbot that mimicked his late fiancé.
  • The groundbreaking AI technology was designed by Elon Musk’s research group OpenAI.
  • OpenAI has long warned that the technology could be used for mass information campaigns.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After Joshua Barbeau’s fiancé passed away, he spoke to her for months. Or, rather, he spoke to a chatbot programmed to sound exactly like her.

In a story for the San Francisco Chronicle, Barbeau detailed how Project December, a software that uses artificial intelligence technology to create hyper-realistic chatbots, recreated the experience of speaking with his late fiancé. All he had to do was plug in old messages and give some background information, and suddenly the model could emulate his partner with stunning accuracy.

It may sound like a miracle (or a Black Mirror episode), but the AI creators warn that the same technology could be used to fuel mass misinformation campaigns.

Project December is powered by GPT-3, an AI model designed by the Elon Musk-backed research group OpenAI. By consuming massive datasets of human-created text (Reddit threads were particularly helpful), GPT-3 can imitate human writing, producing everything from academic papers to letters from former lovers.

It’s some of the most sophisticated – and dangerous – language-based AI programming to date.

When OpenAI released GPT-2, the predecessor to GPT-3, the group wrote that it can potentially be used in “malicious ways.” The organization anticipated bad actors using the technology could automate “abusive or faked content on social media,” “generate misleading news articles,” or “impersonate others online.”

GPT-2 could be used to “unlock new as-yet-unanticipated capabilities for these actors,” the group wrote.

OpenAI staggered the release of GPT-2, and still restricts access to the superior GPT-3, in order to “give people time” to learn the “societal implications” of such technology.

Misinformation is already rampant on social media, even with GPT-3 not widely available. A new study found that YouTube’s algorithm still pushes misinformation, and the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate recently identified 12 people responsible for sharing 65 percent of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media. Dubbed the “Disinformation Dozen,” they have millions of followers.

As AI continues to develop, Oren Etzioni, CEO of the non-profit, bioscience research group, Allen Institute, previously told Insider it will only become harder to tell what’s real.

“The question ‘Is this text or image or video or email authentic?’ is going to become increasingly difficult to answer just based on the content alone,” he said.

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Facebook scientists asked to study COVID-19 misinformation at the beginning of the pandemic, but Facebook ignored them, a report says

Mark
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

  • Facebook scientists reportedly asked to study COVID-19 misinformation at the start of the pandemic.
  • Management never approved their request for resources, sources told The New York Times.
  • Facebook is fighting with the Biden administration over vaccine misinformation on its platform.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Early in the pandemic, data scientists at Facebook asked for resources to monitor COVID-19 misinformation on the platform, but were ignored by leadership, according to a report from The New York Times.

The Times spoke to two people who were present at a meeting where data scientists asked for resources to study the spread of COVID-19 misinformation. The data scientists asked for new hires and to assign some current employees to the project, but management never approved it, and never gave an explanation, the people told The Times.

White House officials and experts have urged Facebook to share its own data about the spread and prevalence of misinformation.

It is not clear whether Facebook packages that data so it can be usefully studied.

One source told The Times that Facebook has the raw data, but hasn’t put resources towards defining and labeling misinformation.

Facebook is currently fighting the Biden administration over whether it’s doing enough to combat COVID-19 misinformation. When asked on Friday what his message to companies like Facebook was, President Joe Biden said: “you’re killing people.”

Biden walked that statement back on Monday, saying key people who spread anti-vaxx misinformation on Facebook were killing people.

Read more: These 7 powerful people are behind Biden’s bid to break up Big Tech

Biden cited a March study by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) which said the majority of anti-vaxx information on Facebook was generated by just 12 high-profile individuals.

Facebook shot back at Biden, accusing him of using the company as a scapegoat to explain away missing his goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult US population by July 4.

In a blog post on Saturday, Facebook’s vice president of integrity Guy Rosen claimed a survey conducted by Facebook and two universities showed vaccine hesitancy among its users had dropped 50% during the pandemic.

A Facebook spokeswoman told The Times: “The suggestion we haven’t put resources toward combating Covid misinformation and supporting the vaccine rollout is just not supported by the facts.

“With no standard definition for vaccine misinformation, and with both false and even true content (often shared by mainstream media outlets) potentially discouraging vaccine acceptance, we focus on the outcomes – measuring whether people who use Facebook are accepting of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Facebook did not immediately respond when contacted by Insider for comment on The Times’ report.

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Surgeon General doubles down on criticism of social media, says companies like Facebook need to ‘take responsibility’ for COVID-19 misinformation

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speaks on Fox News
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday doubled down on his criticism of social-media companies.

  • Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday doubled down on his criticism of tech companies.
  • In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Murthy said companies “need to take responsibility” for the spread of COVID-19 misinformation.
  • Murthy last week issued a 22-page advisory declaring misinformation a threat to public health.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy doubled down Sunday on his criticism of tech companies for their role in the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19 and vaccines.

“What all of us have the right to is accurate information, so we can make the right decisions for us and our families. That is not the reality for far too many people,” Murthy told Fox News’ Chris Wallace during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

“They’re inundated with misinformation, and all of us – technology companies, individuals, health professionals, and government – have roles they can play in addressing and slowing the spread of misinformation,” he added.

Murthy on Thursday in a 22-page report issued his first advisory as the surgeon general. In the report, Murthy deemed misinformation “an urgent threat to public health” and called out tech companies for their role in hosting misinformation on their platforms, some of which casts doubt on the safety and effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines.

Health experts say the spread of misinformation about the vaccines and COVID-19 has played a part in millions of people avoiding getting vaccinated— even as new variants of the disease are spreading.

On Friday, a day after the report, President Joe Biden told NBC News that social-media companies were “killing people” because of misinformation hosted on their platforms.

“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people,” Biden said.

A spokesperson for Facebook pushed back on the administration’s claims.

“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” a Facebook spokesperson told Insider and other outlets. “The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine.”

But Murthy on Sunday doubled down on his advisory.

“The reality is misinformation is still spreading like wildfire in our country, aided and abetted by technology platforms,” he said.

“There are pathways that tech companies can take to address misinformation that’s flowing on their side,” Murthy added. “I acknowledge they’re taking steps, and I appreciate that. But I’m also very clearly saying it is not enough. The intention is good but at the end of the day, it doesn’t save the life of someone who was misled by misinformation on these sites.”

He added: “I’m asking these companies to step up and take responsibility for what is happening on their sites. I’m asking them to look out for the people all across this country whose lives depend on having access to accurate information.”

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Just 12 people are responsible for the majority of COVID-19 conspiracy theories online, study finds. JFK’s anti-vaxxer nephew is one of the ‘disinformation dozen.’

Stock photo of disinformation, left. Robert F. Kennedy Jr, a prominent anti-vaxxer, is pictured right.
The disinformation dozen, which includes Robert F. Kennedy Jr, are twelve anti-vaxxers who play leading roles in spreading digital misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

  • 12 people are responsible for the majority of COVID-19 disinformation shared online, according to a new study.
  • The CCDH found that 65% of anti-vaccine posts on Facebook and Twitter could be attributed to the “disinformation dozen.”
  • The disinformation dozen includes a bodybuilder, a wellness blogger, and JFK’s nephew.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The majority of COVID-19 disinformation shared online comes from just 12 people, according to a new report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

The CCDH analyzed 812,000 anti-vaccine posts shared on Facebook and Twitter between February 1 and March 16, 2021. It found that 65 percent of this content could be attributed to what is being dubbed the “disinformation dozen.”

On Facebook alone, the CCDH found that those 12 people were responsible for 73 percent of the anti-vaccine content on the platform.

Read more: Anti-maskers are using fake medical cards to avoid scrutiny for not wearing coverings in public

The disinformation dozen is made up of a bodybuilder, a wellness blogger, and a religious zealot, The Guardian reported.

Also, most notably, it includes the nephew of former President John F Kennedy. Robert F Kennedy Jr is a prominent anti-vaxxer who has proliferated disinformation connecting vaccines to autism and the COVID-19 shots to 5G phone technology.

His account was part removed by Instagram, the CCDH said, but he remains active on Facebook and Twitter.

Fewer than half of the members of the disinformation dozen – Kennedy, Sherri Tenpenny, Rizza Islam, Sayer Ji, and Kelly Brogan – have had one of their social media accounts removed or partially removed, the study said.

The CCDH is now calling on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube to de-platform every member of the disinformation dozen with haste.

“The most effective and efficient way to stop the dissemination of harmful information is to de-platform the most highly visible repeat offenders, who we term the disinformation dozen,” the study said. “This should also include the organizations these individuals control or fund, as well as any backup accounts they have established to evade removal.”

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Facebook hit back at Biden, saying the White House is looking for ‘scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals’

Joe Biden Mark Zuckerberg 2x1
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and President Joe Biden.

  • President Biden said platforms like Facebook are “killing people” with vaccine misinformation.
  • Facebook defended itself and said the White House was looking for “scapegoats.”
  • The White House failed to reach its goal of inoculating 70% of adults by July 4.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook pushed back at comments President Joe Biden made Friday, accusing the White House of looking for “scapegoats” after missing its vaccination targets.

When asked what his message was to platforms like Facebook, where misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine spreads, Biden said “they’re killing people.”

“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people,” he said.

Read more: These 7 powerful people are behind Biden’s bid to break up Big Tech

In a statement provided to Insider, Facebook defended itself.

“The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.”

In an additional statement provided to NBC’s Dylan Byers, a Facebook official said: “In private exchanges the Surgeon General has praised our work, including our efforts to inform people about COVID-19. The White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals.”

The White House fell short of its goal to have 70% of adults vaccinated by July 4, which some have blamed on vaccine hesitancy.

As of Friday, nearly 60% of American adults were fully vaccinated.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The White House isn’t letting Facebook off the hook for allowing misinformation to spread on its platforms

Vaccine
The White House wants Facebook to remove misinformation quicker, CNN reported.

  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday Facebook must remove misinformation quicker.
  • Anthony Fauci said the “disparity in the willingness to be vaccinated” could lead to a COVID surge.
  • White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain recently said Facebook is “a giant source” of vaccine misinformation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The White House wants Facebook to act quicker in removing posts containing vaccine misinformation.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Facebook takes too long to remove “violative posts” during a press briefing. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said during the briefing that misinformation is slowing the pace of vaccinations in the US.

“Facebook needs to move more quickly to remove violative posts,” Psaki said. “Posts that will be within their policies’ removal often remain up for days. That’s too long. The information spreads too quickly.”

CNN reported meetings between the Biden administration and Facebook have been “tense” in recent weeks.

In a statement to Insider, Facebook said, “We’ve partnered with government experts, health authorities and researchers to take aggressive action against misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines to protect public health.”

The statement pointed to the more than 18 million pieces of COVID misinformation Facebook has removed, as well as “accounts that repeatedly break these rules, and connected more than 2 billion people to reliable information about COVID-19 and COVID vaccines across our apps.”

Read more: Hospitals, big investors, and insurers bought 22,700 doctors during the pandemic in a race that could shape the future of healthcare

The US missed Joe Biden’s goal of giving adults at least one vaccine jab by July 4. Though vaccine hesitancy decreased since last year according to survey data, less than 60% of US adults were fully vaccinated as of July 15.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain recently said, “I’ve told Mark Zuckerberg directly that when we gather groups of people who are not vaccinated, and we ask them, ‘Why aren’t you vaccinated?’ and they tell us things that are wrong, tell us things that are untrue, and we ask them where they’ve heard that. The most common answer is Facebook.”

The White House estimates misinformation could have dire consequences: Anthony Fauci said the “disparity in the willingness to be vaccinated” could lead to a surge of the Delta variant in the US.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to confront common science denial arguments, according to 2 psychologists

anti vaccine protest coronavirus
A protester holds an anti-vaccination sign during a rally on May 16, 2020 in Woodland Hills, California.

  • Denying, doubting, and resisting scientific explanations led to more COVID-19 deaths than expected.
  • Two research psychologists offer ways to understand and combat this issue of science denial.
  • Be aware of what you share on social media and recognize that people operate with misguided beliefs.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Science denial became deadly in 2020. Many political leaders failed to support what scientists knew to be effective prevention measures. Over the course of the pandemic, people died from COVID-19 still believing it didn’t exist.

Science denial is not new, of course. But it’s more important than ever to understand why some people deny, doubt, or resist scientific explanations – and what can be done to overcome these barriers to accepting science.

In our book “Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do About It,” we offer ways for you to understand and combat the problem. As two research psychologists, we know that everyone is susceptible to forms of it. Most importantly, we know there are solutions.

Here’s our advice on how to confront five psychological challenges that can lead to science denial.

Read more: 3 things need to happen if the US wants to create a safe and organized vaccine-passport system, Okta’s CEO says

Challenge 1: Social identity

People are social beings and tend to align with those who hold similar beliefs and values. Social media amplifies alliances. You’re likely to see more of what you already agree with and fewer alternative points of view. People live in information filter bubbles created by powerful algorithms. When those in your social circle share misinformation, you are more likely to believe it and share it. Misinformation multiplies and science denial grows.

Action No. 1: Each person has multiple social identities. One of us talked with a climate change denier and discovered he was also a grandparent. He opened up when thinking about his grandchildren’s future, and the conversation turned to economic concerns, the root of his denial. Or maybe someone is vaccine-hesitant because so are mothers in her child’s play group, but she’s also a caring person, concerned about immunocompromised children.

We have found it effective to listen to others’ concerns and try to find common ground. Someone you connect with is more persuasive than those with whom you share less in common. When one identity is blocking acceptance of the science, leverage a second identity to make a connection.

Challenge 2: Mental shortcuts

Everyone’s busy, and it would be exhausting to be vigilant deep thinkers all the time. You see an article online with a clickbait headline such as “Eat Chocolate and Live Longer” and you share it, because you assume it’s true, want it to be, or think it is ridiculous.

Action No. 2: Instead of sharing that article on how GMOs are unhealthy, learn to slow down and monitor the quick, intuitive responses that psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls System 1 thinking. Instead turn on the rational, analytical mind of System 2 and ask yourself, how do I know this is true? Is it plausible? Why do I think it is true? Then do some fact-checking. Learn to not immediately accept information you already believe, which is called confirmation bias.

Challenge 3: Beliefs on how and what you know

Everyone has ideas about what they think knowledge is, where it comes from and whom to trust. Some people think dualistically: There’s always a clear right and wrong. But scientists view tentativeness as a hallmark of their discipline. Some people may not understand that scientific claims will change as more evidence is gathered, so they may be distrustful of how public health policy shifted around COVID-19.

Journalists who present “both sides” of settled scientific agreements can unknowingly persuade readers that the science is more uncertain than it actually is, turning balance into bias. Only 57% of Americans surveyed accept that climate change is caused by human activity, compared with 97% of climate scientists, and only 55% think that scientists are certain that climate change is happening.

Action No. 3: Recognize that other people (or possibly even you) may be operating with misguided beliefs about science. You can help them adopt what philosopher of science Lee McIntyre calls a scientific attitude, an openness to seeking new evidence and a willingness to change one’s mind.

Recognize that very few individuals rely on a single authority for knowledge and expertise. Vaccine hesitancy, for example, has been successfully countered by doctors who persuasively contradict erroneous beliefs, as well as by friends who explain why they changed their own minds. Clergy can step forward, for example, and some have offered places of worship as vaccination hubs.

Challenge 4: Motivated reasoning

You might not think that how you interpret a simple graph could depend on your political views. But when people were asked to look at the same charts depicting either housing costs or the rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over time, interpretations differed by political affiliation. Conservatives were more likely than progressives to misinterpret the graph when it depicted a rise in CO2 than when it displayed housing costs. When people reason not just by examining facts, but with an unconscious bias to come to a preferred conclusion, their reasoning will be flawed.

Action No. 4: Maybe you think that eating food from genetically modified organisms is harmful to your health, but have you really examined the evidence? Look at articles with both pro and con information, evaluate the source of that information, and be open to the evidence leaning one way or the other. If you give yourself the time to think and reason, you can short-circuit your own motivated reasoning and open your mind to new information.

Challenge 5: Emotions and attitudes

When Pluto got demoted to a dwarf planet, many children and some adults responded with anger and opposition. Emotions and attitudes are linked. Reactions to hearing that humans influence the climate can range from anger (if you don’t believe it) to frustration (if you’re concerned you may need to change your lifestyle) to anxiety and hopelessness (if you accept it’s happening but think it’s too late to fix things). How you feel about climate mitigation or GMO labeling aligns with whether you are for or against these policies.

Action No. 5: Recognize the role of emotions in decision-making about science. If you react strongly to a story about stem cells used to develop Parkinson’s treatments, ask yourself if you are overly hopeful because you have a relative in early stages of the disease. Or are you rejecting a possibly lifesaving treatment because of your emotions?

Feelings shouldn’t (and can’t) be put in a box separate from how you think about science. Rather, it’s important to understand and recognize that emotions are fully integrated ways of thinking and learning about science. Ask yourself if your attitude toward a science topic is based on your emotions and, if so, give yourself some time to think and reason as well as feel about the issue.

Everyone can be susceptible to these five psychological challenges that can lead to science denial, doubt, and resistance. Being aware of these challenges is the first step toward taking action to meet them.

Barbara K. Hofer, professor of psychology emerita, Middlebury and Gale Sinatra, professor of education and psychology, University of Southern California

The Conversation
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Mark Zuckerberg knows how bad Facebook’s misinformation problem is because the White House has told him directly

Mark Zuckerberg at Georgetown University
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is facing harsh criticism from President Biden’s White House over vaccine misinformation.

“I’ve told Mark Zuckerberg directly that when we gather groups of people who are not vaccinated, and we ask them, ‘Why aren’t you vaccinated?’ and they tell us things that are wrong, tell us things that are untrue, and we ask them where they’ve heard that. The most common answer is Facebook,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain told Kara Swisher on “Sway,” her New York Times podcast.

“And so we know it has become a giant source of misinformation and disinformation about the vaccines,” Klain added.

The last time the Klain and Zuckerberg spoke, he urged the CEO to “do better” at moderating COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on Facebook.

“His response was he cited the efforts Facebook was undertaking to try to put out good information, and I told him I recognize that Facebook is a source of a lot of good information about vaccines,” Klain said on the podcast. “But it also unfortunately is a source of a lot of bad information about vaccines.”

In a statement to Insider, a Facebook representative said the company has, “removed more than 18 million pieces of content on Facebook and Instagram that violate our COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation policies, and labeled more than 167 million pieces of COVID-19 content rated false by our network of fact checking partners.”

Facebook has struggled and occasionally outright refused to moderate speech on its platforms.

A Wall Street Journal report from May 2020 revealed that executives, including Zuckerberg, declined to moderate the service even when faced with evidence that its algorithms, “exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness.” And in 2019, the company took a hard stand on fact-checking political ads in the lead up to the tumultuous presidential election.

Klain said he urged Zuckerberg to be extra vigilant on vaccine misinformation given the seriousness of the situation: Nearly 4 million people have died worldwide from COVID so far, according to the World Health Organization.

“I’ll let Mark Zuckerberg speak for himself, he certainly can,” Klain said. “But there is just no question that a lot of misinformation about the vaccines is coming from postings on Facebook. And this is a life or death situation here.”

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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