Leading medical publication The BMJ slams Facebook for censoring its report

Dr Kamran Abbasi – editor of the British Medical Journal – has slammed Facebook for ‘censoring’ its report on allegations of malpractice during Pfizer’s Covid vaccine trials

The editor of the British Medical Journal has slammed Facebook for ‘censoring’ its report on alleged misconduct during Pfizer’s Covid vaccine trials.

Dr Kamran Abbasi accused the social media giant of suppressing “fully verified” journalism and “trying to control the way people think”.

A BMJ investigation in November warned that a contractor who conducted a number of original Pfizer studies may have falsified data and skewed the results.

His report was based on dozens of internal documents, photos, audio recordings, videos and statements from three former employees.

But when some users shared the diary entry on Facebook, their post automatically got a “missing context” tag.

The shared article also came with a warning that it could ‘mislead people’ and a link to a fact-checking website.

The BMJ is filing a complaint with Facebook’s oversight board this week after an unsuccessful appeal to Mark Zuckerberg to have the tags removed via an open letter.

Dr Abbasi wrote in the BMJ today: ‘We should all be very concerned that Facebook, a multi-billion dollar company, is effectively censoring fully verified journalism that raises legitimate concerns about the conduct of clinical trials.

He added: “Facebook’s actions won’t stop the BMJ from doing the right thing, but the real question is: why is Facebook acting this way?” What drives his worldview?

“Is it ideology? Are they business interests? Is it incompetence?

The BMJ slammed Facebook after its article about mistakes made in Pfizer vaccine trials was called “missing context”. Above shows a post where a user shared the article, which comes with a note from Facebook

People who shared the BMJ article on Facebook also received these notifications

The BMJ has already complained to Mark Zuckerberg and will take the matter to its supervisory board this week

People who shared the BMJ article on Facebook also received these notifications. The BMJ has already complained to Mark Zuckerberg and will take the matter to its supervisory board this week. Facebook said the post was tagged because it was shared by anti-vaxxers

“Users should be concerned that despite marketing itself as a neutral social media platform, Facebook is trying to control how people think under the guise of ‘fact-checking’.”

The BMJ article concerned a branch of the Pfizer lawsuit in Texas that involved 1,000 participants. There is no indication that this skewed the overall conclusions of the larger trial.

The prestigious medical journal has filed a complaint with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), which helps monitor misinformation online.

Social media bosses face stiff criminal penalties for hosting extremist content

Social media bosses could face ‘criminal sanctions with stiff penalties’ if they allow extremist content to appear on their platforms, Boris Johnson has said.

He told MPs that the upcoming online safety bill would go after web giants if they allow “objectionable content” to circulate.

And he promised the long-awaited legislation would move quickly through the Commons, with the Bill receiving its second reading before Christmas.

But a Whitehall source later said the second reading may not take place until early next year.

Published in May, the bill gives regulator Ofcom the power to impose multi-billion pound fines on tech giants that fail to carry out a duty of care to users.

But he refrains from penalizing the bosses.

Instead, a new criminal offense for directors has been included as a deferred power that can be introduced if Ofcom finds companies failing to meet their new responsibilities.

Some activists have raised fears the rules risk stifling the free press, “silencing marginalized voices” and introducing “state-backed censorship”.

Facebook says the article was originally labeled as “missing context” because it was used by anti-vaxxers as “evidence” that Covid shots weren’t safe.

Social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have come under scrutiny for misinformation during the pandemic, especially when it comes to vaccines.

Earlier this month, Boris Johnson said anti-vaxxers were allowed to spread ‘nonsense’ and ‘complete nonsense’ online.

Gary Schwitzer, of the University of Minnesota and who runs a website that rates health journalism, said Facebook’s fact-checking process was not transparent or consistent enough.

The BMJ’s Pfizer trial report, published in November last year, warned that corners had been cut in one arm of the study conducted by medical company Ventavia.

Whistleblower Brook Jackson, who briefly worked for the company in 2020, told BMJ Ventavia it doesn’t always test patients with symptoms, potentially masking jab performance.

She added that it was “falsification” of data and said that underqualified staff had been hired as vaccinators and for monitoring side effects.

His statements were corroborated by dozens of internal documents and two former Ventavia employees, who wished to remain anonymous.

The Texas-based contractor was responsible for 1,000 attendees at three sites in the state, just 2% of all attendees.

But the report raised concerns that similar issues may have crept into other parts of the trial, although these remain unsubstantiated.

BMJ Head of Journalism Rebecca Coombes and Investigations Editor Madlen Davies said they had “serious concerns” about the fact-checking undertaken for Facebook.

They said the lack of accountability and oversight of third-party “fact-checkers” led to censorship of accurate information.

Researchers leading a small number of original Pfizer Covid vaccine trials may have

Researchers running a small number of original Pfizer Covid vaccine trials may have ‘falsified’ study results, the BMJ has reported (file)

Pfizer has since rehired Ventavia to work on four more trials of its jabs, including for children, young adults and pregnant women, as booster doses.

Ventavia denied the allegations, saying an internal investigation found them to be “unsubstantiated”.

They said Ms Jackson had been employed by the company for around two weeks in September 2020 and was not responsible for the Covid vaccine trial as part of her job.

Facebook owner Meta told MailOnline that its fact checkers were responsible for reviewing content and applying ratings to stories.

A spokesperson said: “We are transparent with publishers when their content is reviewed, and we have an appeals process in place for publishers who wish to issue a correction or dispute a rating directly with a reviewer. facts.”

Facebook has about 2.85 billion users, more than a third of the world’s population.

The UK’s upcoming online safety bill is set to make tech giants liable for “harmful” content on their platforms.

This will include illegal content, such as terrorist propaganda and child abuse, and “legal but harmful” content, such as cyberbullying and misinformation, including around Covid vaccines.

News organizations, however, have expressed concern that this will lead to the suppression of legitimate journalism, as companies will use algorithms to sift through publications.

Peter Wright, editor emeritus of DMG Media, previously said the social media platform’s content monitoring algorithms were “very poor”.

He told a House Committee hearing that Facebook’s attempts to moderate journalism in the United States resulted in articles being blocked before anyone had a chance to read them.

Mr. Wright said; “it’s arbitrary, it’s often misunderstanding the nature of the content, it’s imposed without any sort of process, it’s not in line with English legal thinking about journalism, which is that the editor has to assume responsibility for what he publishes, and pay the consequences afterwards”.

Jacob L. Thornton