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Facebook ramps up effort to curb anti-vaxxer campaigns against COVID inoculation

Move includes banning groups that repeatedly spread misinformation and debunked claims about coronavirus and vaccines

The thumbs-up 'Like' logo is shown on a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, April 14, 2020. (AP/Jeff Chiu, File)
The thumbs-up 'Like' logo is shown on a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, April 14, 2020. (AP/Jeff Chiu, File)

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 that repeatedly spread misinformation and debunked claims about the virus and vaccines.

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 was updated with the help of the World Health Organization.

Groups or accounts that share such misinformation may be removed completely from the social network, Facebook warned. Debunked information about vaccines or the pandemic is already banned in ads at the social network.

People in charge of groups on the social network were told to require that posts of members prone to spreading bogus information be approved before being shared.

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine injection at a vaccination center in Holon, February 4, 2021. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

At Facebook-owned Instagram, accounts of people discouraging COVID-19 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.

On Sunday, Facebook announced that it had removed a major Israeli group promoting conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccines that in recent weeks urged its thousands of members to schedule appointments to inoculate only to cancel them at the last minute, forcing HMOs to throw out unused doses.

The Hebrew-language group was called “No to the green passport,” referring to a document that will enable vaccinated people to attend certain public venues and events and potentially travel abroad without quarantine.

Many of its 14,000 members made use of the group to promote unfounded allegations that the vaccine is harmful.

Facebook said that the group violated its community standards regarding fake news.

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