In an open letter to Mark Zuckerburg British Medical Journal (BMJ) editors have asked that he corrects an “incompetent and irresponsible” fact check of one of their articles.
Beginning on the 10th of November readers began reporting problems; when they tried to share the article in question they were redirected to a “fact check” performed by a Facebook contractor called Lead Stories.
The BMJ article, originally published on the 2nd of November, was an investigation into poor clinical trial research practices at Ventavia, a contract research company helping carry out the main Pfizer covid-19 vaccine trial.
Fiona Godlee and Kamran Abbasi, editors at the BMJ said this “should be of concern to anyone who values and relies on sources such as the BMJ for reliable medical information.”
The article was based on internal company documents, photos, audio recordings and emails provided to the BMJ by a former employee of Ventavia.
The BMJ urged parent company Meta to reconsider its investment in and approach to fact checking overall following other examples of incompetence.
The “fact check” didn’t identify anything false or untrue in the article and yet published the story on its website under a URL containing the phrase “hoax-alert.”
The BMJ complained to Lead Stories and Facebook requesting that they remove the ‘fact check’ label and any link to the Lead Stories article.
The BMJ said Lead Stories “refused to change anything about their article or actions that have led to Facebook flagging our article.”
Editors at the BMJ said: “Rather than investing a proportion of Meta’s substantial profits to help ensure the accuracy of medical information shared through social media, you have apparently delegated responsibility to people incompetent in carrying out this crucial task.”