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Facebook is preparing to remove misinformation about upcoming COVID-19 vaccines, including conspiracy theories that claim the treatments will require people to get microchipped.
“Given the recent news that COVID-19 vaccines will soon be rolling out around the world, over the coming weeks we will start removing false claims about these vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts on Facebook and Instagram,” the company announced.
According to Facebook, the crackdown will target false claims “about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects,” of the new vaccines. “For example, we will remove false claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips, or anything else that isn’t on the official vaccine ingredient list,” the company added.
The conspiracy theory has its origins with the anti-vaccine movement, which accuses Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates of funding COVID-19 vaccines to secretly microchip the world’s population. However, there’s no evidence to support any of this.
“No. There’s no connection between any of these vaccines and any tracking type thing at all. I don’t know where that came from,” Gates told CBS News in June. Nevertheless, the conspiracy theory has persisted on social media for months now.
Another conspiracy theory Facebook plans on removing covers false claims that certain groups of people are being exploited to test the COVID-19 vaccines without their consent.
The impending crackdown will face complaints from the anti-vaccine movement and free speech advocates. However, Facebook said it’s removing the misinformation out of fear it’ll put people in “imminent physical harm.”
Indeed, the upcoming COVID-19 vaccines hold the promise of ending the ongoing pandemic once and for all. On the flip side, the public is still trying to understand the efficacy and potential side effects of the treatments as the FDA prepares to approve them for mainstream distribution.
To keep users informed, Facebook plans on promoting “authoritative sources” on the coming vaccines through the company’s official COVID-19 information center. “We will not be able to start enforcing these policies overnight,” the company added. “Since it’s early and facts about COVID-19 vaccines will continue to evolve, we will regularly update the claims we remove based on guidance from public health authorities as they learn more.”
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