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Facebook is preparing to hold an invitation-only summit dedicated to health on June 6th, right here in New York. CNBC managed to get a photo of the invitation, and its tagline reads “Health in the era of mobile.” They’re apparently making a huge push to begin selling data gathered on Facebook to pharmaceutical companies for their digital marketing initiatives.

The summit is part of an initiative for “Facebook Health”, which is run by a small team reporting to former Google Director Meredith Guerriro. CNBC’s source expects Facebook Health to unveil new additions to the ad product “so pharma companies can more easily plug themselves on the platform.” According to their source, mobile video has been a major focus for the team, and so their tweaks may very well surround the introduction of mobile video advertisements to Facebook.

fNow, unlike other industries, the pharmaceutical industry has strict regulations on “how it can promote its drugs on social channels.” For instance, a drug company may target individuals based on their demographic, or if they have “liked” an advocacy page. They are not allowed to target ads to specific people based on a disease that Facebook knows or suspects an individual has.

But what does this truly mean for Facebookers? Now, their Newsfeeds will be bombarded with video ads from pharmaceutical industries depending on their demographic and their Facebook impressions on advocacy pages. Whereas TV was the alter with which the pharmaceutical industry reached its niche marketing targets, costing billions of dollars annually, now, their advertising initiatives may end up a lot less costly. And the question stands: what type of drugs will be advertised on Facebook? TV advertisement is expensive, and so by default, one could safely assume that the most successful medicines are marketed on TV.

Now, with Facebook as an outlet for marketing, pharmaceutical companies can advertise a plethora of medications to several niche marketing targets. This is great for anyone who truly needs a certain medication and would like to check up with their doctor(s) regarding said medication. But we also believe there are dangerous medications already being marketed to individuals who may not truly need them. Now that the industry may have Facebook user data to spearhead their ad placement, they’ll be able to reach their niche marketing targets with much more efficiency. It’s simply a scary notion that consumers may be bombarded on Facebook with video advertisements on medications.

The United States and New Zealand are the only countries that allow pharmaceutical companies to market directly to consumers. And critics have expressed concerns that the high expenditures of advertising on TV raise the prices of drugs. Facebook is likely a much less-costly means of advertisement. What could this mean for the price of medications?

Facebook already allows several industries to market products to individuals based on their demographic and Facebook data. But medications are not like the products or services that are advertised toward us on Facebook already. The American Medical Association, the United States’ largest and influential group of doctors, called for a full ban on consumer ads for prescription drugs/medical devices under the belief that ads “encourage patients to seek medicines unnecessarily”. We’d like to hear what your thoughts are on this matter. What repercussions do you believe may occur from pharmaceutical advertisement on Facebook?

The Power Of Facebook

Facebook is becoming a stronger and stronger media source, a large outlet for receiving the news. And unfortunately, not all the news that circulates this giant social media and marketing tech giant is true. Facebook’s algorithm is essentially reshaping how the populace views the current state of the country and what’s to come – not purposely, but nonetheless.

Roughly 30% of the entire nation get their news directly from Facebook. And that’s scary, especially given that about 59% of individuals will share an article based solely on its title. That issue can be attributed to what’s called “clickbait”. A clickbait is a title or content that’s strategically and provocatively written to get more shares, likes, and clicks to drive more traffic toward a business’s website or blog. And it’s become dangerous. Especially with Facebook’s algorithm that’s designed to bring users the news they need to know; which, unfortunately, isn’t always true.

The Problem In Facebook’s Powerful Reach

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen the social chaos, the political debates between one another, and the anger swirling ‘round your newsfeed. You’ve also seen numerous articles shared daily regarding the election, global issues, celebrity gossip, etc. that many times spark these angry debates. A lot of these articles are either misinformed or even designed to misinform. News sites are competing to get their content read. They get the reactions they want using clickbait, writing content that surrounds what’s “trending” on social media. And what’s trending right now is anger, as well as significant dispute between people and their opinions on the future of our country. These articles are designed to intrigue us and back our opinions. Psychologically, we feel inclined to share claims that do both.

There are plenty of reasons people share misinformed articles. We lead busy lives. It’s difficult for us to fact-check every article we see on our newsfeed. We believe it’s up to these news sites to be doing the fact-checking. But many of these news sites are simply writing intriguing articles and citing other news sites that are merely citing other news sites. And where do these trails lead? Possibly to news sites that spread false claims for their own agenda. This is how lies are spreading around even quicker than the truth.

The Problem Is A Cycle

News sites see a decline in their Facebook reach. Many turn to bad practices, such as utilizing clickbait or sharing misinformed claims that get a large audience’s attention and expand the news site’s reach in social media. These articles are liked, shared, and commented on because they are intriguing or support belief structures. These misinformed news sites performing bad practices now receive more organic reach because Facebook’s algorithm sees its users engaging more and more with their content. And the cycle continues. The misinformed misinform – so on, so forth.

And from the looks of it, it’s creating a heated division between us. People feel obligated to back up their opinions. And so, they share articles they believe to be fact-checked, but aren’t. This problem has recently become significantly visible because of “election anxiety” and stress over the future of our country. The changes we may be facing are huge and truly attention-grabbing for the entire nation. Some news sites are exploiting this, sharing outdated information or claims that simply aren’t backed, knowing they will get rewarded for doing so. But at what cost? The future of our country, people’s rights, economic change, etc. – these are all topics that should never be lied about. All the mayhem and angry social media debate could very well be a product of this significant problem.

It is now up to us to fact-check what we consider sharing. We may always be divided in opinion. But this division shouldn’t be so strong that it leads to physical or verbal violence. And it’s as if some news sites are fueling a fire just to meet their own agendas. This needs to stop. And Facebook needs to take more responsibility for its role in allowing false information to circulate its platform.

Facebook Admits The Problem And That They Must Do More To Change It

Many have been quick point fingers at Facebook for its role in allowing misinformation to cycle people’s newsfeeds. They’ve been criticized for firing their human editors who once curated its “trending news” section and replacing it with an algorithm which is, as we can see, easy to fool. Since it has become a media source, Facebook should accept the editorial role they have in the content allowed to be broadcasted to its users.

Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s VP of product management, responded to a series of questions by TechCrunch about this very problem. In his response, Mosseri claims that they “use various signals based on community feedback to determine which posts are likely to contain inaccurate information, and reduce their distribution.” Mosseri wraps up his statement conceding that despite their efforts thus far, there is much more that needs to be done.

And we should expect more. News sites that misinform should be penalized. Facebook’s algorithm needs work to tackle this problem. And we’re happy that Facebook recognizes this and plans to do more.

We urge everyone who turns to Facebook for news to fact-check news articles. Debate is perfectly natural, until it turns verbally or physically violent, which is what we’ve been witnessing. It is easy to see how misinformation can lead to social upheaval. These misinformed news sites performing bad practices need to be stopped – and it may be up to us to stop them. Keep it simple. Don’t share an article or a claim until you, yourself, have fact-checked it. Lies are circulating Facebook – false claims made by seemingly credible news sites. And these lies are psychologically damaging a majority of people. We hope this ends – sooner rather than later.