Facebook to remove COVID-19 vaccine misinformation from its platform
It is not the first time, and it won’t be the last, that we are addressing the issue of fake news and misinformation on social media. The pandemic has only exacerbated this reality.
Last week, Facebook announced that they will remove posts that have been debunked by public health experts when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines. The misinformation policy was updated. This will also apply to Instagram, being owned by Facebook.
Formally, the company was “downranking” falsehoods, making it less visible in everyone’s news feed. In previous months, some of the posts taken down were about false cures and nonsense theories, like the one linking the virus to 5G. Between March and October, the company removed 12 million posts that were false claims about COVID-19.
The social media now decided to take a much more aggressive approach that will change how these conspiracy groups interact and attract people online.
Let’s say it straight, misinformation related to the COVID-19 vaccines could lead to awful and life-threatening consequences.
There is even some information floating out there that the future vaccines will contain microchips to track the humans that get it, which is completely berserk. Generally, fake news does not contribute to a life or death situation. In this case, it can.
To tackle this matter, if you have been searching for COVID-19 vaccine-related information on Twitter these past few months, it points you out to reliable health information, ignoring anti-vax misinformation.
This is the proof that social media are taking a stand about misinformation online even though they are receiving criticism that they are not fast enough.
Facebook has also been the target of critics in the past related to fake news and hate speech online. We now have plenty of proof that Facebook was home to fake news during the 2016 US presidential election thanks to Russian operatives. Just two years ago, the social media probably faced its worst scandal to date: Cambridge Analytica, where it incorrectly obtained data from millions of its users.
With the rise of nationalism around the globe in recent years and the emergence of more extreme right organizations, social media is a carrier for many falsehoods. It is easy to create a group online and reach a sizable audience. That being said, people, mainly malicious, are taking advantage of the concept of free speech we can find online. Conspiracies theories have always existed, this isn’t a new phenomenon.
As with the case of COVID-19, it is not because it may be invisible in our daily lives that it doesn’t exist. Many who are not directly impacted by the virus, who don’t know some family members who contracted the virus, might think that it is a hoax and that governments and organizations like the World Health Organization are not to be trusted.
Therefore, the social media is clearly saying that these type of messages cannot be tolerated on the platform during this worldwide health crisis.
For someone who may be anxious or confused, he or she could be easily influenced and believe these fake COVID remedies.
Thank goodness, in recent months, Facebook has created new tools for its members about the potential dangers of the virus. The platform even has a COVID information Centre, which is available in 189 countries.
Lots of progress in a short period
When we recognized that the virus was transmitted human-to-human, we saw clear signs that this wasn’t just like the other epidemics as we have seen these past decades. Clear signs of the ferocity of the virus were identified when the outbreak first started in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. What started as a mysterious outbreak of pneumonia at the end of 2019 quickly spread worldwide. Lots of scientific breakthroughs have occurred since and we seem to have discovered vaccines for the immunization phase.
Now that vaccines are being approved and that immunization will start in the coming days, some are attacking the whole process and saying we don’t need to be vaccinated. Worldwide, 13 vaccines candidates have now reached the final stages of testing.
Seven vaccines are approved for early or limited use. Seeing companies like Pfizer, Moderna and BioNTech being so close to an efficient and safe vaccine against COVID-19 is reassuring.
The United Kingdom became the first country to approve a vaccine, leading the way to upcoming promising outcomes.
We can only stop the spread of the virus if the majority of the population gets vaccinated. Nevertheless, before then, we must remain careful and continue following the health experts’ recommendations because cases are still going up at alarming rates around the globe.
Being well informed and believing in the scientific progress is the first step to fighting the virus. Sunny days are just around the corner.