Facebook announces crackdown on fake COVID-19 news, vaccine misinformation

UKRAINE - 2020/09/23: In this photo illustration a Facebook logo is seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
UKRAINE – 2020/09/23: In this photo illustration a Facebook logo is seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Facebook said on Monday it will expand a list of false health claims it bans from the platform to include debunked claims about vaccines in general, such as that they are toxic or cause autism.

The social media company said in a blog post it was increasing the types of false claims about the coronavirus, its vaccine, and other vaccines that it will remove, including that COVID-19, is a man-made virus, and that vaccines are dangerous.

“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”, the blog post read.

The platform had already prohibited users from spreading falsehoods that such as: masks are ineffective; vaccines cause infertility; vaccines contain tracking microchips; and vaccines don’t actually exist. Plus a whole host of other dangerous misinformation that’s been debunked by the World Health Organization or government agencies, per a policy that went into effect in December.

In the fall of 2020, the company banned advertisements that discourage vaccinations — with an exception carved out for advocacy ads about government vaccine policies — but at that time it didn’t ban unpaid posts by users.

That’s changing.

Facebook now says it will remove groups, pages, and accounts that repeatedly share the debunked claims.

Similar changes are being made to Instagram, where accounts that discourage people from getting vaccinated will become harder to find.

“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,” Facebook said.

Facebook’s new policy begins immediately. The company says it will also work to improve its own recommendations, to steer people away from conspiracy theories.