Facebook will take down false claims about Covid-19 vaccines, the company said Thursday, in a reversal from previous statements made by the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg who had expressed unwillingness to remove anti-vaxxer content from the site.
In an update, the company said that in the coming weeks it will start removing posts from Facebook and Instagram that make false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of Covid-19 vaccines, along with conspiracy theories about them.
Facebook, however, states that it will not start enforcing these moderation policies overnight and it plans to regularly update what it defines as vaccine misinformation “based on guidance from public health authorities as they learn more.”
The platform will also promote details about the vaccines from “authoritative sources of information” on its COVID-19 Information Center.
Facebook’s decision to move against vaccine misinformation comes a day after the U.K. granted emergency approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, becoming the first country to greenlight a clinically tested Covid-19 vaccine for wide usage.
3.8 billion. That’s the total number of times health-related misinformation was viewed on Facebook between June 2019 and May 2020, research published by global activist group Avaaz found. This included nearly 460 million views in the month of April when the pandemic started to surge around the world.
Facebook’s decision to act against Covid-19 vaccine misinformation is a reversal from Zuckerberg’s previous opposition to taking down anti-vaxxer posts. In September, Zuckerberg told Axios on HBO, “If someone is pointing out a case where a vaccine caused harm or that they’re worried about it — you know, that’s a difficult thing to say from my perspective that you shouldn’t be allowed to express at all.” Despite that, the Facebook boss had promised that his company would work with health authorities to try to provide reputable information about the Covid-19 vaccine. However, many had argued that any effort to promote reliable information about the vaccine would be meaningless if the platform did not crack down on anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories and misinformation. Facebook’s updated policy on vaccines comes after Pfizer and Moderna, announced last month that their vaccines are 95% and 94.5% effective, respectively, in preventing Covid-19. Both companies have since sought emergency approval for distribution from regulators in the U.S. and Europe.