Facebook has announced a series of sweeping restrictions that limit the scope of what users are allowed to post about coronavirus vaccines.
Under these new rules, the following claims are now banned:
- Claims that “vaccines are not effective at preventing the disease they are meant to protect against”
- Claims that “COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured”
- Claims that “it’s safer to get the disease than to get the vaccine”
- Claims that “vaccines are toxic, dangerous, or cause autism”
These rules would seemingly prohibit posts about a wide range of newsworthy coronavirus stories.
For example, during a media briefing today, World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described reports of the existing COVID-19 vaccines being less effective against coronavirus variants that were first detected in South Africa as “concerning news.”
Senator Tom Cotton also noted during a recent appearance on Fox & Friends that several mainstream media outlets are starting to agree with his calls for an investigation into the labs in Wuhan, China and “whether they could have been the source for the plague that China unleashed on the world.”
And within the last three weeks, California State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica S. Pan recommended providers pause administration of a single lot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine after “a higher-than-usual number of possible allergic reactions were reported,” with some people experiencing “a possible severe allergic reaction” and requiring medical attention.
Pan’s statement added that this possible severe allergic reaction was “a type of adverse event that the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] reports some people have experienced” and linked to the CDC’s page describing anaphylaxis – a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to the source of the allergy.
These are just a small sample of recent coronavirus news stories that have questioned the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines, suggested that the virus could have originated in a lab, or pointed to the potential dangers when people have a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine.
Yet according to Facebook’s new rules, all three of these themes are now prohibited.
Facebook wrote that it will start enforcing these new rules immediately and that groups, pages, or accounts that repeatedly violate the rules could be removed. Additionally, groups with admins or members that have violated Facebook’s COVID-19 rules will have to temporarily approve every post in the group.
Facebook added that claims about COVID-19 or vaccines that don’t violate the rules can still be rated false, labeled, and demoted by its third-party fact-checkers.
And on Instagram, accounts that haven’t broken the rules but “discourage people from getting vaccinated” will be suppressed in search results.
Not only is Facebook restricting what users can say about the coronavirus but it’s also aggressively promoting pro-vaccine content from health ministries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and United Nations (UN) agencies by:
- Posting messages at the top of the newsfeed via its “COVID-19 Information Center” which “make it easier for people to see where and when they can get vaccinated in just a few taps”
- 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”
- Partnering with governments to create WhatsApp helplines that “share timely vaccine information over WhatsApp”
Facebook stated that its COVID-19 Information Center and informational messages have already connected over 2 billion people from 189 countries with what it deems to be “reliable information about the coronavirus.”