Facebook said Monday that it plans to remove posts with false claims about vaccines from its platform, including repealing claims that vaccines cause autism or that it is safer for people to contract the coronavirus than vaccinations receive.
The social network has increasingly changed its content policies over the past year as the coronavirus has risen sharply. In October, the social network banned people and companies from buying advertisements containing false or misleading information about vaccines. In December, Facebook announced it would remove posts with claims exposed by the World Health Organization or government agencies.
Monday’s move goes even further by targeting unpaid posts to the website and, in particular, to Facebook pages and groups. Rather than just aiming at misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines, the update includes incorrect information about all vaccines. Facebook said it had consulted with the World Health Organization and other leading health institutes to come up with a list of false or misleading claims regarding Covid-19 and vaccines in general.
In the past, Facebook had announced that it would only “rank down” or push down on people’s news feeds, leading to misleading or false claims about vaccines, making it harder to find such groups or posts. Now posts, pages and groups that contain such untruths will be completely removed from the platform.
“Building trust in these vaccines is critical, so we’re launching the world’s largest campaign to help public health organizations share accurate information about Covid-19 vaccines and encourage people to get vaccinated as soon as possible they have vaccines available, “said Kang-Xing Jin, director of health at Facebook, in a company blog post.
The company said the changes were in response to a recent decision by the Facebook Oversight Board, an independent body that reviews decisions made by the company’s policy team and determines whether they are fair. In a decision, the board said Facebook needed to create a new standard for health-related misinformation because its current rules were “inappropriately vague”.
Apr 8, 2021, 7:52 p.m. ET
Facebook also announced that it would provide US $ 120 million in advertising loans to ministries of health, non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies to help spread reliable Covid-19 vaccines and preventative health information. As vaccination centers became more prevalent, Facebook would help point people to places to get the vaccine.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, has been proactive against false information related to the coronavirus. He has Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, often hosted on Facebook for live video updates on America’s response to coronavirus. In his private philanthropy, Mr. Zuckerberg has also vowed to “eradicate all diseases” and pledge billions to fight viruses and other diseases.
However, Mr Zuckerberg was also a staunch advocate of free speech on Facebook and previously hesitated to contain most falsehoods, even if they were potentially dangerous. The exception was Facebook’s policy of not tolerating statements that could lead to “immediate, direct physical harm” to people on or outside the platform.
Facebook has been criticized for this stance, including for allowing President Donald J. Trump to stay on the platform until after the January 6 uprising in the U.S. Capitol.
Public health advocates and outside critics have questioned Facebook’s refusal to remove false or misleading claims about vaccines for years. This has resulted in an increase in false vaccine information, often by people or groups spreading other harmful misinformation on the website. Even when Facebook tried to update its guidelines, it often left loopholes that were exploited by misinformation spreaders.
Facebook announced on Monday that it was also changing its search tools to post relevant, authoritative results on coronavirus and vaccine information while making it harder to find accounts that are preventing people from getting vaccinated.