Australia

Facebook is ramping up efforts to curb coronavirus vaccine misinformation


Facebook on Monday said it is ramping up efforts to stem the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, spread facts, and figure out who might be wary of getting the jab.

The move includes banning groups which repeatedly spread misinformation and debunked claims about the virus and vaccines in general.

Facebook said it would remove groups, pages and accounts that repeatedly share the debunked claims.

The leading social network has been highlighting health advice from reliable agencies and removing COVID-19 misinformation for months and on Monday expanded that initiative.

A list of debunked claims about the virus or vaccines that are not welcomed at Facebook was updated with the help of the World Health Organisation.

The list of barred misinformation included claims COVID-19 was created by people or that it is safer to get the virus than the vaccine.

It also included false claims that vaccines are toxic or cause autism.

Critics of the social media giant’s handling of misinformation were not convinced by its latest move.

“Facebook has been promising to crack down on COVID and anti-vax misinformation for the past year,” the nonprofit Centre for Countering Digital Hate said in a message fired off on Twitter.

“Every time, it fails to meet these headline announcements with action.”

Groups or accounts that share vaccine misinformation may be removed completely from the social network, warned Facebook vice president of integrity Guy Rosen.

Facebook prominently hosts a COVID-19 information centre, and makes a priority of featuring reliable sources in results for queries on the topic.

People in charge of groups at the social network were told to require posts of members prone to spreading bogus information about vaccines or the pandemic to be approved before being shared.

At Facebook-owned Instagram, accounts of people discouraging vaccinations will be harder to find using automated search tools, according to the social network.

Facebook said that it has gotten more than 50 million responses to a COVID-19 survey it launched last year in a collaboration with two US universities.

It was designed to gather insights from people about COVID-19 symptoms, mask wearing, and access to care.

“The survey program is one of the largest ever conducted and has helped health researchers better monitor and forecast the spread of COVID-19,” Facebook said.

“The survey data will provide a better understanding of trends in vaccine intent across sociodemographics, race, geography and more.”

Survey findings about vaccine attitudes will be shared globally, according to the social network.

In December, Facebook announced it would remove false claims about COVID-19 vaccines that had been debunked by public health experts, though in recent weeks news reports have identified Facebook pages, groups and Instagram accounts still spreading these false claims.

Facebook also said it would help users find out where and when they can receive the coronavirus vaccine.

It will partner with Johns Hopkins and the AARP to reach Black, Latinx, Native Americans and people over 50 with educational content that addresses concerns those groups may have about the new vaccine.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania.



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