After Biden's criticism of @Facebook for their inaction on antivax propaganda, @fbnewsroom is going on the offensive.

They issued a press release that is a textbook example of bluster, obfuscation, and agnatogenesis. Here's the link. Let's take a look.…
"Facts, not allegations."

It would be nice to be able to rely on facts. Unfortunately, Facebook has exclusive access to the data we need to know what the facts are, and is not forthcoming with those facts. See e.g. the ongoing CrowdTangle debacle.… Image
"Vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the US has increased."

This is a red herring, given that vaccine acceptance among everyone in the US has increased—dramatically. Look at the decline in those truly hesitant: the "wait and see" group. Source:… ImageImage
Without figures for the decline in vaccine hesitancy among Americans not on facebook, all of these numbers amount to little more than blowing smoke. Again reference the graph I included above. Image
"We did the same thing in the US and Canada, and Canada faired better."

No kidding. They are a different country with different values, beliefs, elected officials, etc. It's little surprise that the same (lack of) intervention has different consequences there. Image
"There's more to the problem than facebook."

Your honor, my client did not embezzle *all* of the money that disappeared from the corporate account. Image
"Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed."

This is pure slight of hand.

First, they're comparing a survey result with a behavioral response; that's apples and oranges. Second, to evaluate the highlighted claim below, we need to consider a counterfactual. Image
Namely, "what would have happened to vaccine rates among facebook users if they hadn't been exposed to antivax disinformation there?"

Facebook users are not random Americans. They may have better access to both signup and medical care, for example; they may be older on average.
The fact that the fraction of facebook users who express positive attitudes toward vaccination is larger than the fraction of Americans who have actually been vaccinated--this tells us nothing about the direction of facebook's impact on vaccination.
(Further slight of hand: on the facebook side of the equation, we get to 85% by counting those who have actually been vaccinated AND those who intend to be vaccinated, whereas on the Biden's plan side of the equation, we miss 70% by counting only those actually vaccinated.)
"We set up clinics."

Should we give Philip Morris a pass because they donated to the American Cancer Society? Image
"Lots of people viewed true information on facebook."

Lots of people viewed disinformation, too Without knowing how many we can't possibly work out the balance sheet to know whether facebook helped or hurt. Problem is, only facebook has that information. Image
"Hearing from a friend is more persuasive."

Can they really not see that this cuts both ways? If hearing from a friend that they were vaccinated helps more than exhortations of a remote agency, seeing a friend post antivax propaganda hurts more than finding it via google etc. Image
This a big part of why social media is such a powerful medium for disseminating propaganda. When you drop leaflets from a plane, everyone knows it's propaganda. When Uncle Rick shares a story he read somewhere, it's much less clear what you are looking at.
On social media, we are easily tricked in leveraging our own social capital with friends and family, on behalf of propagandists.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic we have removed over 18 million instances of COVID-19 misinformation."


"We have distributed over 18 million pieces of disinformation that even we acknowledge were bad enough to require removal." Image
"We have also labeled and reduced the visibility of more than 167 million pieces of COVID-19 content debunked by our network of fact-checking partners."


"We left up 167 million pieces of disinformation despite knowing they were false." Image
Facebook concludes by asking to be praised for putting bandaid on the gaping wound they created. Don't fall for it. Image
Finally, when your "Vice President for Integrity" is so adept at packing misdirection, agnatogenesis, deceit, and all-around weaselry into so short a document, you've got big problems with your corporate culture. Image

1. sleight, not slight.

2. Agnatogenesis is the deliberate creation of doubt or ignorance for political or commercial purposes, usually to stave off regulation, as practiced by big tobacco around the link to cancer, fossil fuel industry around climate change, etc.

Q: Where does a company find a VP of Integrity, anyway?

A: You hire the cofounder and CEO of the spyware company (masquerading as a privacy-promoting service) that you acquired and used to collect information on competitors until you were exposed.…
Sleight, not slight.

In penance, I made a handy cheat-sheet. Image
4. I guess the spelling would be agnotogenesis, not agnatogenesis. The original neologism was agnatology, corrected to agnotology again I think by Robert Proctor. Carrying that change over, we get agnotogenesis.
Update: @Cat_Zakrzewski writes in the @washingtonpost about the Facebook-is-killing-people imbroglio, with comments from @Rob_Flaherty, @BostonJoan, @brianboland, and @noUpside.…

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More from @CT_Bergstrom

24 Jul
There's a new paper reporting on a randomized controlled trial of daily testing instead of quarantining for students exposed to Covid cases.

The study failed to find significant differences between the arms, even in the number of missed days of schools.… Image
OK fair enough, but look how the @guardian reports on it as if it demonstrated an effect.… Image
How could @theguardian have gotten it so mixed up?

If you've been reading my feed for while, you know where I'm going.

The @UniofOxford press release. Look at this.… Image
Read 6 tweets
12 Jul
Damn close to false lights by @TheSun.

The lede: expert is warning of 100K cases/day
First sentence: Carl Bergstrom says...

I'm getting hate mail. But I'm not the expert they refer to. And I never spoke to them. They're quoting an old, unrelated tweet.…
This indubitably creates the false impression that I am predicting 100,000 cases per day.

It's criminally poor journalism, and it leads to harassment as well as reputational harm.
Here's another version. What the hell are these people trying to do to me?
Read 6 tweets
7 Jul
1. Kevin Gross and I have worked together for a number of years, using mathematical models to understand how science works and how to make it work even better.

We just posted our latest paper to the arXiv.

Here is a short thread about that paper.
2. We begin from the perspective I describe on the page below: the norms and institutions that comprise science create incentives for researchers to pursue certain questions and research strategies, shaping in turn our scientific knowledge of the world.…
3. In this paper, we look at the institution of peer review. Scientists confront peer review at multiple stages of a research project. Before doing a study, they face *ex ante* review when writing a grant proposal to persuade a funder that the research project merits funding.
Read 19 tweets
4 Jul
This morning we lost a great scientist and great human being.

I don't know quite how to speak to his memory just yet. There's no single story that captures what I would like to say, no single piece of his work that comes close to summarizing the whole.
He was a mentor to me as an undergraduate student. Over the past 18 months as I've struggled to navigate my dual role as scientist and citizen, I've thought of his words on a daily basis and tried to live up to his advice. He will be sorely missed.
I feel ready to write a bit about Dick's influence on my career.

As an undergrad, I was amazingly fortunate to take Bio 17, the evolution course that he taught with Stephen Jay Gould.
Read 19 tweets
30 Jun

What other topics need to be on Andy's STATS 102 syllabus?
Probably a more advanced topic but

- Yes, it's counterintuitve. No, it's not Berkson's paradox.
- Unless you're a professional or moving on very soon, don't do your own electrical or your own stats.

Read 5 tweets
30 Jun
Heartbreaking result of global warming: fledgling Caspian terns plunging to their deaths from hot rooftops yesterday.

“`They were stuck on the ground, the asphalt was burning them'…As many as 90 are believed to have died at the site…Many were treated for burns on their feet…"
I can't tell you how upset I am at the loss of these beautiful birds.

Shame on every person — myself included — who has contributed to making this happen.
Who are these birds? Let me show you. Image
Read 8 tweets

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