Facebook has today made a couple of major announcements regarding its effort to assist with COVID-19 vaccination efforts. First, the company will help people find reliable information regarding vaccination drives conducted by government and health authorities. And second, it will clamp down on misinformation by removing contents that spreads false claims about vaccines.
The social media behemoth says that it will add links related to the local ministry of health websites on its COVID-19 Information Center to help people find information such as eligibility for getting the vaccine, and when and where can they get vaccinated. The company aims to expand this to other countries in the coming weeks. Facebook is also bringing its COVID-19 Information Center to Instagram soon, increasing the reach of useful information across all its apps.
Additionally, the company is also trying to help authorities as they try to relay verified and updated information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. “We’re giving $120 million in ad credits to help health ministries, NGOs and UN agencies reach billions of people around the world with COVID-19 vaccine and preventive health information,” the company says.
The second, and probably the more important announcement from today, was a promise to contain vaccine-related misinformation on its platform. The company says it will remove false claims regarding the COVID-19 vaccine from both Facebook and Instagram. It is also expanding the list of misleading information – which now broadly covers COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, and vaccines in general – that will be removed promptly.
However, it appears that removing vaccine-related misinformation will be more challenging than it appears on paper. And right now, Facebook doesn’t appear to be doing a good job at that. As per a CNN report, 4 out of the top 10 search results for the keyword ‘vaccine’ returned anti-vaccination accounts. Here’s what the CNN team discovered further when it comes to Facebook-owned Instagram:
|“Shortly after, Instagram updated its search interface on mobile devices to showcase three credible results, including the CDC’s account, followed by a “See More Results” prompt. Users who click on that option are then shown a number of anti-vaccination accounts, in what is arguably the digital equivalent to shoving the mess in a bedroom under the bed.”|
And to make matters worse, some of the accounts peddling hoaxes and unsubstantiated non-scientific claims about the COVID-19 vaccine appear to have a sizeable following. It remains to be seen how effectively Facebook can enforce its new policy across its eponymous social media network and Instagram as well.