Facebook has been told efforts to remove false claims about new coronavirus vaccines are “too little too late”.
Labour MP Jo Stevens – shadow secretary of state for digital – reacted to news that the social network would toughen its approach to disinformation, banning false claims such as vaccines contain microchips or anything else not on the official ingredient list.
“For even one person to turn down the coronavirus vaccine because of anti-vaxx content is one too many,” Ms Stevens said.
“With the online harms legislation still yet to materialise – 18 months on – we’ve called for emergency legislation to protect people from this dangerous disinformation.
“Unfortunately this follows a pattern from Facebook – they are rarely proactive and almost always reactive after being publicly pressured to act.”
Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Centre for Countering Digital Hate organisation described the announcement as “long overdue”.
“Facebook has allowed the anti-vaxx misinformation industry to grow its following and profits for the past decade, persuading millions of users to harm their own health and of those they love,” he said.
“Today, anti-vaxxers have tens of millions of followers on Facebook and their lies reach many millions more.
“Today’s policy change is long overdue, but there is no guarantee that it will be properly enforced.”
Facebook said it is applying its policy to remove misinformation about the virus that could lead to “imminent physical harm”.
“This could include false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of the vaccines,” a spokesman explained.
“For example, we will remove false claims that Covid-19 vaccines contain microchips or anything else that isn’t on the official vaccine ingredient list.
“We will also remove conspiracy theories about Covid-19 vaccines that we know today are false, like specific populations are being used without their consent to test the vaccine’s safety.”