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Meta is peeling back the layers on its stringent measures against COVID-19 misinformation. The social media giant, which owns Facebook and Instagram, announced on Friday it’s stepping off the brakes on a controversial and damaging policy, devised to keep a lid on COVID-19 falsehoods spreading across its platforms, but has ended up censoring countless truthful posts.
Background: During 2020 and 2021, Facebook and Twitter – the social media titans – found themselves caught in the crosshairs as pressure mounted for them to wrestle down pandemic-related misinformation. Claims that were challenged by establishment groups, particularly about vaccines, propagated like wildfire, prompting the platforms to batten down the hatches.
By the numbers: In an intense sweep in the final quarter of 2021, Facebook scrubbed over 12 million COVID-19-related content pieces from October to December. These pieces got the ax for being tagged as misinformation by an ensemble of global health groups.
Reassessment: Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently admitted that its Covid censorship policies censored truthful information and undermined credibility in institutions. “It really undermines trust,” Zuckerberg pointed out.
The Caveat: Meta’s volte-face comes with a qualifier. It clarified that the old rulebook isn’t gathering dust for nations still supposedly in the grip of COVID-19, with public health emergencies not yet in the rearview mirror.
“We are consulting with health experts to understand which claims and categories of misinformation could continue to pose this risk,” Meta spotlighted in a blog post.