Facebook has announced it will make a greater effort to eliminate false claims and misinformation about COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, and vaccines in general on its platforms.
Following consultations with the World Health Organisation, the social media giant has expanded the list of the type of false claims that will be removed from both Instagram and Facebook, with a particular focus on groups, pages and accounts that spread misinformation.
“We will begin enforcing this policy immediately, with a particular focus on Pages, groups and accounts that violate these rules, and we’ll continue to expand our enforcement over the coming weeks,” Guy Rosen, VP of Integrity at Facebook, said in a blogpost.
“Groups, Pages and accounts on Facebook and Instagram that repeatedly share these debunked claims may be removed altogether.”
The types of posts that will be removed from Facebook and Instagram now include false claims about COVID-19 being “man-made or manufactured” and that vaccines are not effective at preventing the disease they are designed to protect against. Misleading content that says it’s safer to get the disease than to get the vaccine, and that vaccines are toxic, dangerous or cause autism, will also be removed.
Facebook says it has been removing false claims about COVID-19 vaccines since December 2020.
The new guidelines will apply to user-generated posts, as well as paid advertisements which already had stricter rules around misinformation.
Prior to, and during the pandemic, Facebook groups have been prolific spreaders of COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation. The new guidelines will ensure groups like theses will be removed if they continuously proliferate banned content in their posts.
In some instances, admin for some groups will be required to temporarily approve all posts in a group, if a member has violated the COVID-19 policies.
Also, it will now be harder for users to find Instagram accounts that discourage people from getting vaccinated, and Facebook will promote relevant and scientifically backed information when people search for vaccine or COVID-19 related content on the platform.
“As the situation evolves, we’ll continue to review content on our platforms, assess trends in language and engage with experts to provide additional policy guidance to keep people safe during this crisis,” Rosen said.