Facebook has announced that it will ban claims that coronavirus is manmade. The announcement sparked legitimate concerns from freedom of speech advocates.
In a blog post, Facebook said it would ban “misinformation” on all vaccines and then went on to say that claims the virus came from a lab are now also banned on the platform.
The source of the virus is still unknown.
Research by WHO scientists in China claim they failed to identify the source of the virus. Regardless, the organization claimed that it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus was made in a lab.
The new policies took effect immediately. The company said it would be vigilant on “Pages, groups, and accounts that violate these rules.” It added, “Groups, Pages, and accounts on Facebook and Instagram that repeatedly share these debunked claims may be removed all together.”
The company said it expanded its list of prohibited “falsehoods” after “consultations with leading health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO).”
Other free speech advocates have also raised concerns about the new misinformation policies. Mark Johnson of Big Brother Watch, a free speech advocacy group, slammed the censorship, saying despite a global pandemic, it is important to protect freedom of expression.
“Facebook’s increasing censorship of COVID-19 related content online is not only damaging to free speech but is eroding public trust at a time when it is more important than ever,” Johnson said.
“Tech giants like Facebook are increasingly being leant on by our Government to censor lawful speech. This is a slippery slope. The right to free speech has never been limited to the consensus of authorities. Even during a global pandemic, freedom of speech must be protected,” he added.
According to the Open Rights Group, another group, Facebook but should realize there is a thin line between content expressing genuine health concerns and so-called misinformation.
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 criticize and examine Government health policy will not be swept away by careless moderators,” said the group’s executive director, Jim Killock.