Conspiracy theories concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, and the vaccine developed to combat it, are everywhere. There are people denying its existence, others claiming that the vaccine (which we might eventually get here) will implant you with microchips or alter your DNA — and a substantial portion of this misinformation is shared on Facebook.
A vaccine for Facebook stupidity?
Facebook isn’t unaware of this fact, resolving in early 2020 to do something about the large quantities of COVID misinformation making its way onto the social network. Over the months, its content moderation policy has become stricter, to the point where all vaccination-related misinformation — previously allowed on Facebook under the guise of ‘free speech’ — is now subject to immediate removal.
The company’s most recent COVID update includes a passage that reads:
“In addition to sharing reliable information, we are expanding our efforts to remove false claims on Facebook and Instagram about COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in general during the pandemic. Today, following consultations with leading health organizations, including the WHO, we’re expanding the list of false claims we will remove to include additional debunked claims about COVID-19 and vaccines.”
Which is about time. The company expands on the change here, adding that there will be “…a particular focus on Pages, groups and accounts that violate these rules”, with more enforcement to follow. Accounts, Groups and Pages that repeatedly post misinformation might be suspended altogether, while other penalties include downranking, or forcing Page admins to approve every item posted by their Page’s members.
If you’d like to see exactly which false claims, both COVID- and Wakefield-related, will be inoculated on sight by Facebook’s moderators, you can head here for a (very) exhaustive list. Everything from denying the existence of the COVID pandemic to ‘Vaccines cause autism because some random person on the internet told me so’ will be removed from the service.