Facebook to start removing false claims about coronavirus vaccine

Facebook starts removing torrent of anti-vaxx conspiracy theories and false claims about the coronavirus jab from its pages

  • Conspiracy theories about the coronavirus vaccine on Facebook will be removed
  • Facebook says it introduced it due to the imminent release of a vaccine  
  • Company says this will happen globally but warns it will not be enforced overnight  

Facebook will remove harmful anti-vaxx propaganda from the social media platform as the world prepares to receive the first coronavirus vaccine.   

False claims about the jab doing the rounds on the site will be removed and the company will also expand its ban on anti-vaxx adverts to include Covid-19. 

Prominent conspiracy theories propagating on all forms of social media by poorly-informed individuals include the wholly false claim the coronavirus vaccine contains microchips which governments will use to spy on citizens. 

The company warned in a statement that it will ‘not be able to start enforcing these policies overnight’.

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False claims about the imminent coronavirus vaccine doing the rounds on the site will be removed and Facebook will expand its ban on anti-vaxx adverts to include those regarding the Covid vaccination. the social media giant announced today 

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

It currently takes down coronavirus misinformation that poses a risk of ‘imminent’ harm, while labeling and reducing distribution of other false claims that fail to reach that threshold.

In October, the company announced it would ban ads that discourage people from getting vaccines and this will now also apply to new Covid-19 vaccines.

A Facebook spokesperson said: ‘We are applying our policy to remove misinformation about the virus that could lead to imminent physical harm.

‘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 or anything else that isn’t on the official vaccine ingredient list.

‘We will also remove conspiracy theories about Covid-19 vaccines that we know today are false, like specific populations are being used without their consent to test the vaccine’s safety.’

After Wednesday’s Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine announcement, there was a surge in disinformation being shared online.

This included outlandish and debunked claims from Covid-deniers and vaccination skeptics.  

A November report by First Draft found that 84 per cent of interactions generated by vaccine-related conspiracy content came from Facebook and 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.

Facebook users who have interacted with fake news about the coronavirus will see a message in their news feed urging them to visit the WHO website and share a WHO link

Facebook will remove harmful anti-vaxx propaganda from the social media platform as the world prepares to receive the first coronavirus vaccine (file)

FullFact, an independent fact-checking charity, has been working with Facebook to tackle disinformation.

Speaking on Wednesday, editor Tom Phillips told the PA news agency: ‘We have seen a lot of the internet platforms take stricter measures against vaccine misinformation and I think that is the correct approach. Could some of them go further? Yes, possibly.

‘But at the same time, it is important to remember the importance of free speech. It’s not illegitimate to have questions or worries about the vaccine and it’s important that we don’t just react by trying to suppress those questions. We allow people to ask the questions, get good quality answers and make up their minds based on good quality information.’

The site said it will continue to regularly update the claims they remove based on current guidance from public health authorities.

Between March and October, Facebook and Instagram removed 12 million pieces of misinformation related to Covid-19.

In April alone, it put warning labels on about 50 million pieces of content, with 95% of people who saw the label not clicking past to view the content.

Between March and October, it put warning labels on 167 million pieces of content.

The spokesperson added: ‘We have directed over two billion people globally to authoritative information from public health authorities such as the WHO (World Health Organisation) and in the UK the NHS, and we will continue to help people stay informed about these vaccines by promoting authoritative sources of information through Facebook’s Covid-19 Information Centre.’

In April, Facebook introduced a host of measures designed to quash the spread of misinformation.  

The social network introduced messages which appear in the news feed of any users who have interacted with a post that has since been removed by Facebook due to being deemed harmful.  

This includes people who have liked, reacted, commented or clicked on the content, such as false claims that 5G is linked to the health pandemic. 

Facebook said its messages will connect people with advice from the World Health Organisation’s ‘mythbusters’ page, which debunks false claims about COVID-19. 

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