Cape Argus

Facebook bans false claims about Covid-19 vaccines


FACEBOOK Inc yesterday said it would remove false claims about Covid-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts, following a similar announceme­nt by Alphabet Inc’s YouTube in October.

The move expands Facebook’s current rules against falsehoods and conspiracy theories about the pandemic.

The social media company says it takes down coronaviru­s misinforma­tion that poses a risk of “imminent harm”, while labelling and reducing distributi­on of other false claims that fail to reach that threshold.

Facebook said in a blog post that the global policy change came in response to news that Covid-19 vaccines will soon be rolling out around the world.

Two drug companies, Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc, have asked US authoritie­s for emergency use authorisat­ion of their vaccine candidates.

Britain approved the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday, jumping ahead of the rest of the world in the race to begin the most crucial mass inoculatio­n programme in history.

Misinforma­tion about the new coronaviru­s vaccines has proliferat­ed on social media during the pandemic, including through viral anti-vaccine posts shared across multiple platforms and by different ideologica­l groups, according to researcher­s.

A November report ( https:// firstdraft­ under- the- surface- covid- 19- vaccine-narratives-misinforma­tion-and-data-deficits-on-social-media) by the non-profit First Draft found that 84% of interactio­ns generated by vaccine-related conspiracy content it studied came from Facebook pages and Facebook-owned Instagram.

Facebook said it would remove debunked Covid-19 vaccine conspiraci­es, such as that the vaccines’ safety is being tested on specific population­s without their consent, and misinforma­tion about the vaccines.

“This could include false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredient­s or side effects of the vaccines. For example, we will remove false claims that Covid-19 vaccines contain microchips,” the company said in a blog post.

It said it would update the claims it removes based on evolving guidance from public health authoritie­s.

Facebook did not specify when it would begin enforcing the updated policy, but acknowledg­ed it would “not be able to start enforcing these policies overnight”.

The social media company has rarely removed misinforma­tion about other vaccines under its policy of deleting content that risks imminent harm.

It previously removed vaccine misinforma­tion in Samoa where a measles outbreak killed dozens late last year, and it removed false claims about a polio vaccine drive in Pakistan that were leading to violence against health workers.

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