Facebook Inc. updated its misinformation policy around the coronavirus crisis to include vaccine-related content, as the company looks to continue its fight against claims that it isn’t doing enough to protect its billions of users.
What did Facebook say?
It says it will remove false claims about Covid-19 vaccines “that have already been debunked by public health experts”. Facebook says that since January it has been removing content about the pandemic, such as false cures and treatments or claims that the disease doesn’t exist at all.
In October, it banned advertisements that discouraged people from taking vaccines.
This is a continuation of the policy “to remove misinformation about the virus that could lead to imminent physical harm”, the company said.
“This could include false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of the vaccines [and] 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.”
“We will not be able to start enforcing these policies overnight” a Facebook statement said.
The Service is Host to many Large Groups Opposing Vaccination
Facebook has long struggled to balance free speech on its platform with eliminating dangerous or damaging misinformation. It has hired thousands of content moderators and developed algorithms to better police its sites.
This year, it has also taken a more aggressive stance, prohibiting segments of misinformation like that regarding the coronavirus and even banning political advertising around the election in an effort to stifle false claims of victory and other potential problems.
Social media, and Facebook in particular, is host to many large and enthusiastic communities that oppose vaccines. Facebook allows such groups to proliferate on the grounds that people should be able to express their views on social media.
Some of the anti-vaccination groups have also become hubs for misinformation about the coronavirus. When the human rights organization Avaaz researched the Facebook pages that were the biggest sources of misinformation on Facebook about the coronavirus through May 2020, at least three of them were known groups that oppose vaccines.
Anti-vaccination groups were also involved in the ReOpen movement to protest pandemic shutdowns across the country this spring.
Even when Facebook is willing to remove the most problematic groups, they have found ways to come back.