Two weeks after firing its entire editorial staff, Facebook’s Trending news section highlighted a report by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons—which believes that the “gay male lifestyle” shortens lives by 20 years and abortion can cause breast cancer—claiming “most doctors polled” had “serious concerns” about Hillary Clinton’s health on Friday.
Most links in the trending section about the poll referred to a post on PRNewswire, a website where anyone can post a press release, or right-wing blogs.
The story is still appearing in Facebook’s Trending section at press time, and Facebook has not yet responded to an email from The Daily Beast requesting comment.
AAPS’ press release says “nearly 71% of 250 physicians” dub concerns about Clinton’s health “serious.” Also receiving votes in response to that question are “shows how the powers that be are willing to use her to win regardless of having to prop her up and keep her from speaking in public” and “in this case, she is so much more dangerous to the repbulic [sic] if she’s healthy.”
As The Daily Beast reported last month, the AAPS has been at the forefront of debunked Internet conspiracy theories suggesting Clinton has a litany of diseases—which some websites claim are everything from syphilis to Parkinson’s to a brain tumor.
The AAPS has published articles in the past stating abortion causes breast cancer, HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, and vaccines cause autism.
One answer to “What do you think of coverage of the [health] questions by the news media?” includes the response “There’s not enough emphasis, but where are the forensic psychiatrists? She’s a flaming sociopath!” Another response to that question, which simply reads “Media = Democrat Operatives with Bylines,” also received a vote.
More responses to the poll of 250 purported doctors included answers like “looks like a cover-up” and “she’s a flaming sociopath!”
This appears to be the second major conspiracy theory to puncture Facebook’s Trending algorithm on Friday alone. Earlier on Friday, a conspiracy website’s article titled “September 11: The footage that ‘proves bombs were planted in Twin Towers’” took over the top spot of many users’ Trending boxes.
Last week, Facebook promoted a false story stating that Fox News’ Megyn Kelly had been fired and dubbed a “traitor” by the network. She’s still hosting The Kelly File on the network.
That post came just three days after Facebook eliminated its entire editorial staff. The Trending section is now “staffed entirely by engineers, who will work to check that topics and articles surfaced by the algorithms are newsworthy,” according to Quartz.
Facebook faced more news-related turmoil on Friday when the site began censoring the 1972 Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph commonly referred to as “Napalm Girl,” which shows a 9-year-old girl running from a napalm attack after her clothes had been singed off her body.
After social media uproar, the site said it would once again allow the image and change its review process.
—Colin Jones contributed to this report.