Facebook expands push to combat COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

Social media giant aims to inform the public on where and when they can get vaccinated

Facebook on Monday said it is running the "largest worldwide campaign" to combat misinformation surrounding COVID-19 vaccines, and to inform the public on where and when they can get vaccinated.

Kang-Xing Jin, the head of health at Facebook, on Monday detailed the social media giant's efforts to help the public in regard to vaccines to protect against the novel coronavirus, saying its work is "similar to how we helped people find information about how to vote during elections."

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Facebook said it is giving $120 million in ad credits to help health ministries, NGOs and United Nations agencies to reach “billions of people around the world” with COVID-19 vaccine and preventative health information.

Facebook also said it has “partnered with governments in more than 120 countries, as well as multilateral organizations like the World Health Organization and UNICEF, to deliver timely information about COVID-19, including through helplines on WhatsApp.”

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“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,” Jin said, adding that Facebook is also working to combat any spread of misinformation related to COVID-19 vaccines on their platform.

“We’ve removed more than 12 million pieces of content on Facebook and Instagram containing misinformation that could lead to imminent physical harm,” Jin said.

Facebook said it is “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,” Jin wrote.

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Jin touted Facebook’s efforts, saying real-time data has shown that countries are “leveraging our tools to support the COVID-19 response in their communities.”

“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,” Jin wrote. “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.”

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Facebook’s campaign comes after Twitter announced, in December, that it had expanded existing rules to combat misleading tweets about COVID-19 vaccines and it will prioritize the "removal of the most harmful, misleading information" about the vaccines.

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And Google, last month, committed $150 million to to promote coronavirus vaccine education and will open up Google spaces to serve as vaccination sites.