With COVID-19 vaccines now being shipped, Facebook has announced that it will step up its efforts to eliminate vaccine misinformation, which has the potential to undermine public health efforts.
As explained by Facebook:
“Given the recent news that COVID-19 vaccines will soon be rolling out around the world, over the coming weeks we will start removing false claims about these vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts on Facebook and Instagram. This could include false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of the vaccines.”
Facebook says that this will include any posts or comments that claim that:
- COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips, or anything else which isn’t on the official vaccine ingredient list
- Conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines – “like claims that specific populations are being used without their consent to test the vaccine’s safety”.
- Claims about possible dangers or risks that have been refuted by official health bodies
This is an important step – back in June, US infectious-disease expert, expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned of a longer battle against the COVID-19 pandemic in America due to rising “anti-science bias”, which would see many refusing the vaccine.
Facebook, specifically, has been identified as a key contributor to this. In August, human rights group Avaaz released a report which showed that the platform had facilitated the spread of a wide range of health misinformation, with Facebook Pages sharing misleading health reports seeing a cumulative 3.8 billion views in the first five months of 2020.
Given this, it’s important for Facebook to take a lead role here, and work to eliminate misinformation as best it can ahead of the global vaccine effort.
Facebook says that it will evolve its approach as official advice is updated, and work to tackle concerning claims as quickly as possible.
“We will also continue to help people stay informed about these vaccines by promoting authoritative sources of information through our COVID-19 Information Center.”
Again, this is a key effort, for Facebook in particular, and it could play a key role in maximizing take-up of the vaccine, and getting life back to normal as soon as possible.