Facebook said on Monday that it plans to remove posts with erroneous claims about vaccines from across its platform, including taking down assertions that vaccines cause autism or that it is safer for people to contract Covid-19 than to receive the vaccinations.
The social network has increasingly changed its content policies over the past year as the coronavirus has surged. In October, the social network prohibited people and companies from purchasing advertising that included false or misleading information about vaccines. In December, Facebook said it would remove posts with claims that had been debunked by the World Health Organization or government agencies.
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Facebook says it will take down false vaccine claims
Facebook Inc 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. Such claims are already prohibited in ads on the platform.
Reaching Billions of People With COVID-19 Vaccine Information
We’re running the largest worldwide campaign to promote authoritative information about COVID-19 vaccines by:
- Helping people find where and when they can get vaccinated — similar to how we helped people find information about how to vote during elections
- Giving $120 million in ad credits to help health ministries, NGOs and UN agencies reach billions of people around the world with COVID-19 vaccine and preventive health information
- Expanding our efforts to remove false claims on Facebook and Instagram about COVID-19 and vaccines
- Providing data to inform effective vaccine delivery and educational efforts to build trust in COVID-19 vaccines
A year ago, COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency and since then, we’ve helped health authorities reach billions of people with accurate information and supported health and economic relief efforts. We’ve connected over 2 billion people from 189 countries to reliable information about the coronavirus through our COVID-19 Information Center and informational messages, and we’ve removed more than 12 million pieces of content on Facebook and Instagram containing misinformation that could lead to imminent physical harm. We’ve partnered with governments in more than 120 countries, as well as multilateral organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, to deliver timely information about COVID-19, including through helplines on WhatsApp.
We’ve provided researchers and public health officials with real-time data and tools to help inform disease forecasting and understand the effectiveness of prevention measures. Through our Data for Good program, we’ve partnered with over 450 organizations in nearly 70 countries, the vast majority of which are leveraging our tools to support the COVID-19 response in their communities. And our publicly available datasets were downloaded over a million times in the last year by nonprofits, public health officials and researchers.
But there’s still a long road ahead, and in 2021 we’re focused on supporting health leaders and public officials in their work to vaccinate billions of people against COVID-19. Building trust and confidence in these vaccines is critical, so we’re launching the largest worldwide campaign to help public health organizations share accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines and encourage people to get vaccinated as vaccines become available to them.
Helping People Find Where and When They Can Get Vaccinated
As public officials roll out information on COVID-19 vaccine availability, we’ll help people find where and when they can get vaccinated — similar to how we helped people find information about where and when to vote during elections. Starting this week in the US, we’ll feature links in the COVID-19 Information Center to local ministry of health websites to help people understand whether they’re eligible to get vaccinated and how to do so. And in the coming weeks, as more information becomes available, we’ll continue to expand this feature to more countries and improve it to make it easier for people to see where and when they can get vaccinated in just a few taps.
We’re working with health organizations and community leaders to run campaigns on our platform promoting accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines and encouraging people to get vaccinated. We’re giving $120 million in ad credits to help health ministries, NGOs and UN agencies reach billions of people around the world with COVID-19 vaccine and preventive health information. And we’re providing training and marketing support to help governments and health organizations move quickly and reach the right people with the latest vaccine information.
We’ll soon bring the COVID-19 Information Center to Instagram so people can access the latest information about COVID-19 vaccines across our apps. We’re also helping health authorities and governments share timely vaccine information over WhatsApp and provide answers to people’s questions. We partnered with the government in Indonesia to create a helpline on WhatsApp that shares information on vaccine availability first with medical workers, and eventually with the general public. In just 5 days, 500,000 medical workers — out of 1.3 million in the country — accessed the service. Other governments and health authorities, including the South Africa government and the WHO, are starting to create similar helplines to provide the latest vaccine information.
We’re also working to amplify content that directly serves communities where vaccine intent and access may be lower. In the US, we’re partnering with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to reach Native American communities, Black communities and Latinx communities, among others, with science and evidence-based content that addresses the questions and concerns these communities have. We’re also working with AARP to reach Americans over 50 with educational content about COVID-19 vaccines, including Spanish-language content designed to reach Latinx and Hispanic communities.
This builds on the work we’ve done with health organizations over the past year to increase adoption of COVID-19 preventive behaviors, such as wearing a mask. We put reminders at the top of Facebook and Instagram to wear a mask. And we reached over 26 million people with our public figure campaign encouraging people to #WearAMask, resulting in a 7-point increase in people reporting that wearing a mask in public is very or extremely important. We’ll use insights and best practices from this work to inform vaccine information campaigns and support health authorities in building confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.
Combating Vaccine Misinformation
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. Learn more about how we’re combating COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation.
Last year, we began collaborating with Carnegie Mellon University Delphi Research Group and the University of Maryland on COVID-19 surveys about symptoms people are experiencing, mask wearing behaviors and access to care. These surveys are conducted by our academic partners and Facebook does not receive individual survey responses. With over 50 million responses to date, the survey program is one of the largest ever conducted and has helped health researchers better monitor and forecast the spread of COVID-19. It’s also the only source of global data on mask wearing, which has helped public health officials around the world in their COVID-19 response efforts. The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation used insights from the surveys to inform several mask mandates in countries such as Poland, which achieved a significant increase in mask wearing.
The survey data shows that people’s willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine varies widely across the world, with over 90% of people in Denmark saying they would take a COVID-19 vaccine compared to 71% in Argentina and 62% in the Philippines. And in the US, less than 60% of Black or African American people reported they would be likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine. So to help guide the effective delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, the survey data will provide a better understanding of trends in vaccine intent across sociodemographics, race, geography and more. The scale of the survey will also allow for faster updates on changes in trends, such as whether vaccine intent is going up or down in California in a given week and better insights on how vaccine intent varies at a local level. We’ll share these new insights including vaccine attitudes at a county level in the US as well as globally.
Data has proved critical in informing the fight against COVID-19. In 2020, we launched new datasets, maps and tools to support researchers, nonprofits and governments in their COVID-19 response, and in 2021, we’ll continue to provide helpful data and insights to understand vaccine attitudes, build trust in vaccines through reliable information and support vaccination efforts.
For more information about how we’re providing data to aid in the fight against COVID-19, check out our 2020 Data for Good Annual Report. And to learn more about how we’re supporting COVID-19 relief efforts and keeping people informed, visit our COVID-19 action page.