Facebook says its will start removing false claims about COVID-19 vaccines from its platforms

Facebook said it’s applying a policy to remove COVID-19 misinformation that could lead to “imminent physical harm.”

Facebook said Thursday it will start removing false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, in its latest move to counter a tide of coronavirus-related online misinformation. In the coming weeks, the social network will begin taking down any Facebook or Instagram posts with false information about the vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts. The US tech giant is taking action as the first COVID-19 vaccines are set to be rolled out.

Britain this week became the first country to give emergency authorisation for a vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, and innoculations could start within days. Regulators in the US, the European Union and Canada are also vetting vaccines.

Representational Image

Representational Image

Facebook said it’s applying a policy to remove COVID-19 misinformation that could lead to “imminent physical harm.”

Posts that fall afoul of the policy could include phony claims about vaccine safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects.

“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,” the company said in a blog post.

Conspiracy theories about the vaccines that are already known to be false will also be removed.

Facebook has taken other steps to try to stop the spread of vaccine and coronavirus-related misinformation on its platform. From March to October, it has removed 12 million posts with coronavirus-related misinformation. The deleted posts include one by President Donald Trump with a link to a Fox News video of him saying children are “virtually immune” to the virus.

In October, the company banned ads discouraging vaccinations, though it made an exception for advocacy ads about government vaccine policies. The company has also promoted articles debunking COVID-19 misinformation on an information center.

Amid scrutiny from critics, lawmakers, users alike for how it handles content on its platforms, earlier this year Facebook announced that it will work with an independent oversight board, which will have the power to overrule the Facebook’s decisions to remove certain pieces of content from its platforms. This week, Facebook's oversight board announced the first six cases it has picked to review on the platform.

With inputs from The Associated Press

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