(READ) Medical Journal calls out Facebook’s fake science ‘fact checks’

The outgoing editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, Fiona Godlee, and her incoming replacement, Kamran Abbasi, have published a scathing challenge of one of Facebook’s notorious fake science fact checks.

Facebook and other Big Tech companies have widely censored or attempted to controversialize factual posts seen by powerful entities as undermining to vaccine and pharmaceutical industry interests.

In an open letter published in the journal, the two editors take on Facebook’s flawed “fact check” of an investigation the British Medical Journal published. In that investigation, a Pfizer whistleblower provided documents and raised serious concerns about Covid-19 vaccine study work.

According to the whistleblower, a former regional director of the research group that helped conduct Pfizer’s vaccine studies, “the company falsified data, unblinded patients, employed inadequately trained vaccinators, and was slow to follow up on adverse events reported in Pfizer’s pivotal phase III trial.”

Pfizer has denied any improprieties. The CDC and FDA say Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective for all recommended populations.

Read the letter below. It’s also published here.

Open letter from The BMJ to Mark Zuckerberg 

Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

We are Fiona Godlee and Kamran Abbasi, editors of The BMJ, one of the world’s oldest and most influential general medical journals. We are writing to raise serious concerns about the “fact checking” being undertaken by third party providers on behalf of Facebook/Meta.

In September, a former employee of Ventavia, a contract research company helping carry out the main Pfizer covid-19 vaccine trial, began providing The BMJ with dozens of internal company documents, photos, audio recordings, and emails. These materials revealed a host of poor clinical trial research practices occurring at Ventavia that could impact data integrity and patient safety. We also discovered that, despite receiving a direct complaint about these problems over a year ago, the FDA did not inspect Ventavia’s trial sites.

The BMJ commissioned an investigative reporter to write up the story for our journal. The article was published on 2 November, following legal review, external peer review and subject to The BMJ’s usual high level editorial oversight and review.[1]

But from November 10, readers began reporting a variety of problems when trying to share our article. Some reported being unable to share it. Many others reported having their posts flagged with a warning about “Missing context … Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people.” Those trying to post the article were informed by Facebook that people who repeatedly share “false information” might have their posts moved lower in Facebook’s News Feed. Group administrators where the article was shared received messages from Facebook informing them that such posts were “partly false.”

Readers were directed to a “fact check” performed by a Facebook contractor named Lead Stories.[2]

We find the “fact check” performed by Lead Stories to be inaccurate, incompetent and irresponsible.

— It fails to provide any assertions of fact that The BMJ article got wrong

— It has a nonsensical title: “Fact Check: The British Medical Journal Did NOT Reveal Disqualifying And Ignored Reports Of Flaws In Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Trials”

— The first paragraph inaccurately labels The BMJ a “news blog”

— It contains a screenshot of our article with a stamp over it stating “Flaws Reviewed,” despite the Lead Stories article not identifying anything false or untrue in The BMJ article

— It published the story on its website under a URL that contains the phrase “hoax-alert” 

We have contacted Lead Stories, but they refuse to change anything about their article or actions that have led to Facebook flagging our article.

We have also contacted Facebook directly, requesting immediate removal of the “fact checking” label and any link to the Lead Stories article, thereby allowing our readers to freely share the article on your platform.

There is also a wider concern that we wish to raise. We are aware that The BMJ is not the only high quality information provider to have been affected by the incompetence of Meta’s fact checking regime. To give one other example, we would highlight the treatment by Instagram (also owned by Meta) of Cochrane, the international provider of high quality systematic reviews of the medical evidence.[3] 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. Fact checking has been a staple of good journalism for decades. What has happened in this instance should be of concern to anyone who values and relies on sources such as The BMJ. 

We hope you will act swiftly: specifically to correct the error relating to The BMJ’s article and to review the processes that led to the error; and generally to reconsider your investment in and approach to fact checking overall. 

Best wishes,

Fiona Godlee, editor in chief
Kamran Abbasi, incoming editor in chief

Competing interests:
As current and incoming editors in chief, we are responsible for everything The BMJ contains. 


[1] Thacker PD. Covid-19: Researcher blows the whistle on data integrity issues in Pfizer’s vaccine trial. BMJ. 2021 Nov 2;375:n2635. doi: 10.1136/bmj.n2635. PMID: 34728500. https://www.bmj.com/content/375/bmj.n2635

[2] Miller D. Fact Check: The British Medical Journal Did NOT Reveal Disqualifying And Ignored Reports Of Flaws In Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Trials. Nov 10, 2021. ​​https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2021/11/fact-check-british-medical-jo…

[3] https://twitter.com/cochranecollab/status/1458439812357185536

Competing interests: As current and incoming editors in chief, we are responsible for everything The BMJ contains.

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7 thoughts on “(READ) Medical Journal calls out Facebook’s fake science ‘fact checks’”

  1. This is NOT one of those rare exceptions where some government and media cooperation is needed to fight a vicious disease where a medicine clearly reduces the spread. Those rare exceptions are when a government should work to protect us from reckless people. This is NOT that type of situation. The media, including Biden, questioned the efficacy of these untested vaccines when Donald Trump announced they were coming. The media could not be trusted then, nor can they be trusted now, for good reason. They hatched a scheme to exploit Wuhan in the 2020 election by using censorship and nationwide mail in ballot harvesting, similar to California. Commonsense should force people to consider the timing of Wuhan and its overall lack of viciousness because other disease mortalities practically disappeared as hospital deaths were misreported to qualify for Government COVID payouts. Global markets remained unfazed by all of this but now the Democrat caused inflation that will surely tank it, will be blamed on the same scheme they themselves created. Facts scream manufactured crisis but people, like Mark Zuckerberg, are being allowed to
    continue to provide the means for this to be exploited for political reasons. Forcing a vaccine when it doesn’t stop you from getting or transmitting the disease is beyond foolishness, its criminal.

  2. In modern street lingo, to “check” someone means to stop an unwanted or irritating activity.

    So, in that sense, “Fact Checkers” are all about stopping unwanted or irritating facts.

    Can’t let facts ruin the Narrative, so we gotta check ’em.

  3. Sharyl this article and others ?= I got the answers for you and Every States Governor’s complaining about Social Media companies as well as over seas countries complaining about Big Tech and rigging search engine results the other complaints for the past 20 years of people complaining about bullying your young kids online as well as rigging search engines and Browsers and websites with Malicious links and malware. as well as people making money off of mis-information and causing trouble… The answer is in the 1934 Communications Act. ” LOOK when Big tech lobbied Congress in the 80’s with idea’s of software and the World wide international communications Web, they tricked Lawmakers to see International Communications there way ? The United States Government should have realized they should have stuck with the same rules for the World wide Web as the internarional Communications rules of Short Wave international licensing act…= Make Big tech License all Devices and websites and apps Broadcasting Communications to the International World wide Web. Than they cannot get away with all the things talked about above . Example: Look if you Get a short wave communications license and hardware and you start broadcasting false information and cause trouble, the FCC is going to come after you for what your Doing ? So all this was not thought about when the International World Wide web internet came later in History.. The FCC and Federal Trade commision needs to Debate with the Supreme Court in What the Difference is in International Short wave communications Act and un-forseen International world wide web communications ? These changes will stop all the stuff going on mentioned above, because the 1934 international communications Act. would allow the FCC to go after Big Tech and Apps and Social media websites and Bad websites and so on.. The Best thing you can do for your Country is Show the Gonernments where they went wrong. Quote: by William F. Buckley Jr. and his eyebrow raising debates he always raised that eyebrow when debating ? “Ha ha ha !

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