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Anti-science content is thriving on Facebook right now

Published Jul 3rd, 2020 3:57PM EDT
Face mask
Image: ERIK S LESSER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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  • The coronavirus pandemic is continuing to worsen around the US, with several states posting record daily increases in new cases this week, while many also debate imposing mandatory face mask requirements.
  • Along those lines, a new study has found that anti-face mask content is thriving on Facebook right now.
  • The study was performed by Media Matters, looking at a months’ worth of content on Facebook.

The news about the coronavirus pandemic’s impact in the US has been pretty depressing this week, no two ways about it, and seems to be setting the country up for a tough July. On Wednesday, for example, the US surpassed 50,000 daily coronavirus infections for the first time since the pandemic began. States like Florida and Nevada are continuing to set records for new reported cases as well as a high rate of transmission, and, since the start of the pandemic, the US has now reported more than 2.7 million confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus, as well as more than 128,000 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

Actor Tom Hanks (who contracted and quickly recovered from the coronavirus a few months ago) took some time amid promoting his new WWII-era movie for Apple TV+ to talk a little about coronavirus, and specifically to insist that people wear a face mask to protect themselves and everyone around them. He decided to offer that as a kind of PSA because of the prevalence of so much anti-science and anti-face mask posturing — a lot of which is happening in a regrettably predictable sphere.

The results of a new analysis from Media Matters show that anti-face mask content is thriving right now on Facebook, with posts about face coverings from “right-leaning” Facebook pages garnering more than 5.5 million interactions over the past month. Moreover, according to the media group, “posts that promoted skepticism about the efficacy of face coverings, despite experts’ recommendations, earned the most interactions.”

Media Matters performed this analysis by looking at more than 2,000 Facebook posts about masks from right-leaning Facebook pages between May 30 and June 30 “in order to understand the narratives being spread within the right-wing Facebook ecosystem.” The almost 5.5 million interactions found included things like shares, reactions, and comments on the social network, and the group found these posts to be getting about 2,700 interactions per post.

Here’s an example of the kinds of posts included in this analysis:

face maskImage source: Facebook

Even at this stage of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s still a political edge to the practice of wearing face masks or not. The Guardian, for example, interviewed a bar owner in east Texas — Tee Allen Parker, the owner of the Machine Shed Bar & Grill in Kilgore — who has banned masks at her bar.

“We don’t live in a communist country!” she said. ‘This is supposed to be America. It’s an individual choice. There’s been nothing scientific that says masks are effective. I choose not to wear it, but I don’t let thousands of people breathe on me.”

On Wednesday, meanwhile, Texas hit its highest daily number of new coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.