Facebook says it has banned vaccine disinformation — but it’s still far too easy to find

Credit: CNN/Getty Images/Facebook
Credit: CNN/Getty Images/Facebook

Facebook issued a broad prohibition in January 2020 on false claims or conspiracy theories about the coronavirus “that could cause harm to people who believe them.”

But Americans who logged on to Facebook and Instagram, its sister platform, over the past few months may still have seen posts that appear to violate those terms. The posts include:

  • The COVID-19 vaccine could lead to prion diseases, Alzheimer’s, ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases. (Pants on Fire)
  • “If you take the vaccine, you’ll be enrolled in a pharmacovigilance tracking system.” (False)
  • There are nanoparticles in the COVID-19 vaccine that will help people “locate you” via 5G networks. (Pants on Fire)

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An analysis from First Draft, a nonprofit that studies online misinformation, found that at least 3,200 posts containing claims explicitly banned by Facebook were published on the platform between February and March, amassing thousands of likes, shares and comments.

“The approach Facebook really should take is looking at the history of these sources and these pages — and using that in order to inform their policies, rather than the kind of whack-a-mole approach later on,” [NewsGuard’s John] Gregory said. “If the pandemic has proven anything, it’s that people who promoted misinformation before are going to promote misinformation about this.”

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