Scott Morrison warned against getting medical information from Facebook or Craig Kelly — but his own government is using the platform to get the vaccine message out

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  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged Australians to get their medical information directly from the government rather than Facebook, where his backbencher Craig Kelly has been sharing medical misinformation.
  • But Morrison, his health minister Greg Hunt, and his government all use Facebook as a key means of getting public health messages out.
  • And on Facebook, social media data suggests Kelly significantly outperforms any of the public leaders or institutions promoting correct information about COVID-19 public health measures.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has encouraged Australians to seek out information about COVID-19 health measures from his government rather than getting it from disreputable sources on Facebook. But Morrison, his cabinet and his government departments all rely on the platform to get their public health messages out.

On Monday, during an address at the National Press Club, Morrison fended off a question at about COVID-19 misinformation shared by his party room member Craig Kelly on social media by recommending that people seek out government information directly.

“Don’t go to Facebook to find out about the vaccine,” he said.

But Facebook is where the Federal Government is going to reach Australians. And on the platform, the misinformation-spreading backbencher likely reaches further than the Australian Government, Federal Department of Health, the Health Minister Greg Hunt and even Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Last month, the Department of Health launched a $23.9 million campaign urging Australians to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

A Department spokesperson told Business Insider Australia that would include “proactive media engagement” such as social media, but declined to say how much would be spent.

The Department’s Australian Government Department of Health Facebook Page currently has 41 active advertisements, including 7 about the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Facebook Ad Library data.

Due to the Department choosing not to classify them as about ‘issues, elections or politics’, there is no publicly available data about how much has been spent or how many people are reached with these advertisements.

However, there are some key members of the government who use Facebook advertising.

The Prime Minister’s ‘Scott Morrison (Scomo)’ Facebook Page has spent $7,207 on ads about social issues, elections or politics since August 5, including promoting the government’s COVIDSafe app.

Likewise, Health Minister Greg Hunt has spent $4,514 on Facebook advertisements since August 2020. Hunt spent less than AU$100 to amplify a post about the forthcoming vaccine campaign, which was seen by somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 Victorians.

The Facebook king of Australian politics, Craig Kelly

While these public figures and institutions have turned to paying Facebook to boost their message, Craig Kelly appears to winning the battle for eyeballs on the platforms, according to data from social media analytics tool CrowdTangle.

In the last six months — starting from when Australia’s COVID-19 daily case numbers hit their peak at the beginning of August — Kelly’s Facebook Page has attracted more reactions, comments and shares than the Facebook Pages for the Australian Government, the Department of Health, Australia’s medical regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Morrison and Hunt.

In fact, Kelly’s content has accumulated two-and-a-half times more Facebook shares than all of them combined.

While audience are not publicly available, these statistics strongly suggest that Kelly’s content is being seen by more people than all of the public figures and institutions who are putting out the correct medical and public health information.

Despite his declaration, the Prime Minister has not given up on Facebook just yet.

On Tuesday, publication advertised that Morrison would join journalist Samantha Maiden to answer audiences questions about the vaccine.

The platform of choice? Facebook.