Attorney General Bonta: Facebook Must Provide Answers on "XCheck" Program and Its Role in Protecting False and Misleading Information About COVID Vaccines on Its Platforms
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a coalition of 14 attorneys general in requesting information from Facebook on the role its “XCheck” program has played in protecting false or misleading content regarding COVID vaccines on its platforms. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook maintains a "whitelist" of high-profile users that it shields from the company’s normal enforcement process. In today’s letter, the attorneys general seek information as to whether and to what extent the XCheck program has been used to protect members of the so-called “Disinformation Dozen” – twelve individuals who are responsible for almost two-thirds of false or misleading content about COVID vaccines across social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or how much power you wield – if you break the rules, you should be held accountable,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Facebook shouldn't be giving certain users a free pass to spread misinformation. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, promoting lies about the safety of the vaccine can have deadly consequences. The public deserves to know whether – and to what extent – Facebook's XCheck program has allowed disinformation to proliferate across its platforms unchecked.”
In their letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the coalition requests information on the XCheck program and its role in allowing false or misleading vaccine content to spread across its platform, including:
- What is the extent of XCheck or “Whitelist” protections for the Disinformation Dozen?
- How is vaccine content being scored for removal?
- When did Facebook become aware its algorithm was promoting pages with false and misleading vaccine content?
- Will Facebook follow YouTube’s lead and commit to removing all anti-vaccine content and to banning prominent anti-vaccine activists?
Attorney General Bonta has been a leader in efforts to hold social media companies like Facebook accountable. Earlier this month, Attorney General Bonta co-led a bipartisan coalition in expressing support for hearings in the U.S. Senate on “Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms.” Attorney General Bonta also joined a bipartisan coalition in support of Congressional efforts to modernize federal antitrust laws. In May, Attorney General Bonta joined 43 attorneys general in urging Facebook to abandon plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13. Last month, Facebook announced that it would pause development of the new platform, following heavy criticism and shocking new reports from Wall Street Journal and other publications.
Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia in sending the letter.
A copy of the letter is available here.