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Facebook crackdown on Covid outbreak origin misinformation sparks ‘freedom of speech’ fears

FACEBOOK has vowed to crack down on “Covid-19 misinformation” – including claims that coronavirus was created by humans.

It comes after a controversial announcement by the WHO that Covid-19 didn’t start in Wuhan’s wet market.

Billionaire Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg is cracking down on coronavirus misinformation


Billionaire Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg is cracking down on coronavirus misinformationCredit: Wikimedia Commons: Anthony Quintano

Scientists have been unable to determine the exact origin of Covid-19.

WHO concluded the virus likely jumped to humans from an animal – but now the question is to where this occurred as doubt was cast over the wet market as the source of the original transmission. 

The team also admitted the virus could have been circulating in other regions of China “several weeks” before it was identified after an outbreak at the wet market in Wuhan.

Now in a blog post, Facebook confirmed that it would remove any suggestion that Covid-19 is “man-made or manufactured”.

A new Facebook blog post has outlined fresh measures to tackle coronavirus misinformation


A new Facebook blog post has outlined fresh measures to tackle coronavirus misinformationCredit: Facebook

Four new items have been added to Facebook’s blacklist of Covid-19 claims:

  • COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured
  • Vaccines are not effective at preventing the disease they are meant to protect against
  • It’s safer to get the disease than to get the vaccine
  • Vaccines are toxic, dangerous or cause autism

Today, we are expanding our efforts to remove false claims on Facebook and Instagram about COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in general during the pandemic,” Facebook explained.

“Since December, we’ve removed false claims about COVID-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts. 

“Today, following consultations with leading health organizations, including the World Health Organization, we are expanding the list of false claims we will remove to include additional debunked claims about the coronavirus and vaccines.”

Any posts making the banned claims will be removed from Facebook.

Some have have urged Facebook to be more cautious about quickly banning posts.

It includes Jim Killock, who heads up the Open Rights Group.

“Facebook need to take action, but will inevitably make mistakes,” the privacy campaigner told Mail Online.

“They were recently told by their Oversight Board to reinstate a post relating to the COVID outbreak that was wrongly removed,’ Mr Killock told the MailOnline.

‘There is always a fine line between material that seeks to deceive, and people expressing legitimate concerns about their health. Facebook need to reassure the public that their rights to criticise and examine Government health policy will not be swept away by careless moderators.’

Facebook says it has worked with health organisations to create its list of banned claims.

The firm is trying to stem the flow of conspiracy theories while scientists solve the mystery behind Covid-19.

WHO team member and infectious disease expert Dominic Dwyer, said it would probably take years to fully understand the origins of Covid-19.

Facebook’s new policy begins immediately, and will focus on “pages, groups and accounts” in violation of the rules.

And it’s also trying to improve its own recommendations, to steer people away from conspiracy theories.

Searching for vaccines and Covid-19 related content on Facebook will now present “relevant, authoritative results” – as well as third-party resources on vaccines.

Similar changes are being made to Instagram, where accounts that discourage people from getting vaccinated will become harder to find.

“As the situation evolves, we’ll continue to review content on our platforms, assess trends in language and engage with experts to provide additional policy guidance to keep people safe during this crisis,” Facebook said.

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