As the world prepares for the upcoming coronavirus vaccines, Facebook announced that it would remove vaccine-related misinformation content from its platforms. The new policy was announced last Thursday, December 3, and it will cover both Facebook and Instagram.
The social network giant said that the new rules are an extension of the already established policy to remove fake news about COVID-19. According to the company, since the introduction of the old regulations in March 2020, they have reviewed and removed more than 12 million pieces of content.
In a blog post, Facebook said that content that includes any false claim about the efficacy, safety, ingredients, or side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines would be removed from their platform. Furthermore, claims that vaccines contain microchips or conspiracy ideas claiming that some part of the population will be vaccinated without their consent will also be removed from the social platform.
This new policy is substantially stronger than the company’s prior stance against fake news and misinformation. According to Facebook, the reason is that misinformation regarding the coronavirus and the coronavirus vaccination can potentially lead to physical harm.
Facebook has a long history with anti-vaccination content. As early as 2018, anti-vaccination groups and content were allowed to spread unchecked on Facebook. In July of 2018, Facebook first introduced its first rules against vaccine disinformation that had the potential to be the cause of physical harm. At that time, the focus was mainly on the clearest false claims against particular vaccines and vaccination programs.
Since then, Facebook has continuously updated its policies and rules to stop the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation. Last year, Facebook even prohibited adverts that had to deal with anti-vaccine fake news and misinformation. Plus, Facebook announced its plans to suppress pages and groups that supported anti-vaccine misinformation.
Last month, Facebook introduced another policy under which they banned adverts that dishearten people from being vaccinated. However, Facebook gave some breathing room for those that are opposed to vaccination. That means they can advertise against vaccination, but only if it is made from a political standpoint. That means they will consider views of opposing laws and politicians that speak on behalf of obligatory vaccination.