PALO ALTO: The social media giant said Thursday that false news and claims about coronavirus vaccines debunked by public health experts around the world will now be deleted by Facebook.
Facebook’s change came after Alphabet Inc’s YouTube made a similar announcement in October. It also extends the present laws of the social media network against falsehoods and conspiracy theories regarding the pandemic of COVID-19.
According to the company headed by Mark Zuckerberg, any misinformation about coronavirus that poses a risk of “imminent harm is taken down, while other false statements that fail to meet that level are listed as such and reduced their dissemination.
In a blog post, Facebook said the global policy shift came in response to reports that COVID-19 vaccines would soon be rolled out across the globe.
Two drug firms, Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc, have demanded the authorisation of their vaccine candidates by the US authorities for emergency use. On Wednesday, Britain approved the Pfizer vaccine, moving ahead of the rest of the world in the race to launch the most important programme of mass inoculation in history.
Over the pandemic, disinformation about the latest coronavirus vaccines has proliferated on social media, including by viral anti-vaccine posts spread across numerous channels and according to researchers, by various ideological groups.
The non-profit First Draft’s November report found that 84 percent of the interactions created by vaccine-related conspiracy content it analysed came from Facebook pages and Instagram, owned by Facebook.
It will eradicate debunked COVID-19 vaccine conspiracies, such as the protection of the vaccines being administered on particular populations without their permission and disinformation about the vaccines, Facebook stated.
“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 that, based on changing guidelines from public health officials, it will change the arguments it excludes.
Facebook did not define when the new policy would start to be enforced, but admitted that it would not be able to start enforcing these policies overnight.”
Under its strategy of deleting material that risks imminent harm, the social media firm has rarely removed misinformation regarding other vaccines.
In Samoa, where a measles outbreak killed dozens late last year it has previously removed vaccine misinformation and removed false statements about a polio vaccine campaign in Pakistan that led to violence against health workers.
In October, Facebook, which has taken measures to disclose authoritative vaccine information, said it would also ban advertising that deter people from having vaccines.
Facebook has suspended a popular anti-vaccine page and a large private community in recent weeks, one for consistently violating the laws of COVID disinformation and the other for spreading the idea of the QAnon conspiracy.
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