Health has become a top priority in the time of COVID, emphasizing the importance of having access to proper information about the status of the virus. As of late, the discussion on vaccines has become more prominent as more COVID vaccines are being developed and tested. Unfortunately, anti-vaxxers continue to be widespread, and when it comes to social media platforms like Facebook, it is hard not to spot them. Simply put, an anti-vaxxer is someone who opposes vaccinations and the legislations related to them.
The anti-vaxxer movement has long been existing. Facebook’s massive global community spanning billions of users has turned it into a source of information for many, making it important that the platform regulate the content posted on it. With regards to anti-vaxxers, Facebook’s previous policy was to prohibit ads with false information about vaccines but permitting ads opposing vaccines, provided that they do not spread false claims.
Recently in October 2020, however, Facebook decided to revise its policy to better handle the growing conspiracies. Its new policy will ban anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories and ads that discourage people from getting vaccines. However, the platform will still accept ads that express support or opposition against government legislations on vaccines.
Back in October, Facebook noted that its policy changes will only apply to advertisements but not community discussions. As such, debates and discussions related to anti-vaccines will still be allowed within the platform. The company explains the rationale behind this decision by stating that it is responsible for regulating ads within the community, while users are able to curate what appears on their news feeds.
However, after Pfizer and BioNTech announced information about their COVID vaccines, the discussion on vaccines has surged on social media. In response to this, Facebook has once again updated its policy in November. The new change involves the removal of false claims about vaccines, including anything about the safety, efficacy, and ingredients of the vaccines.
The updated policy will also mean that anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories will also be removed in an attempt to take strict measures against misinformation on vaccines. Information regulation has always been important among social media platforms, but it has become even more important this year due to the emergence of COVID.
Now, more than ever, users are seeking authentic information related to COVID and any updates on the vaccines formulated by companies. As a result, the change in Facebook’s policy will be a massive step towards regulating content and information. According to Facebook, the platform will regularly update the claims it removes based on how the discussions evolve over time, as well as with guidance from health authorities.
Naturally, policy enforcement cannot happen overnight, but the announcement from Facebook will have a huge effect on the type of content and discussions made in the platform. While there is much more work that needs to be done to prevent the spread of false information, the anti-vaxxer discussion is a significant starting step to achieving the ultimate objective.