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March 11, 2021updated 19 Mar 2021 9:41am

Facebook makes minuscule effort to tackle vaccine misinformation

By Ellen Daniel

Facebook has announced the launch of a new campaign to tackle misinformation surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine. The social media platform has partnered with UK based fact-checking charity Full Fact on a media literacy campaign which it hopes will help “give people additional resources to scrutinise content they see online”.

Full Fact gets the majority of its funding from Facebook, with smaller amounts from eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar, Google and other sources. The charity’s total revenues in 2019 were less than £2m, approximately 0.003% of Facebook’s. Full Fact has been engaged in efforts to fact-check Facebook content since 2019, a process described by the two organisations as “third party” checks.

Their latest joint campaign, named “Together Against Covid-19 Misinformation”, will be rolled out to users in EU, UK, Norway, Iceland and Turkey, as well as some countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Online ads featuring graphics urging users to check the source of information, ask how the information makes them feel and check the context will appear on the Facebook homepage during the next month.

Facebook is also launching a separate website dedicated to providing information on how it is tackling misinformation on its platform.

Facebook, along with other social media platforms, has received criticism for its handling of misinformation and in the past has been a breeding ground for vaccine conspiracy.

In October last year, the California-based company defended its decision not to ban anti-vaccination content, saying “by leaving this content up we can provide people with important information and context instead of creating an information vacuum.” Last month it announced it would begin banning anti-vaccination posts from its platform.

Steve Hatch, vice president for Northern Europe at Facebook, said: “The fight against Covid-19 is at a critical stage and connecting people with accurate information is more important than ever. Improving media literacy in partnership with Full Fact is one of a number of steps we’ve taken to tackle coronavirus related misinformation.”

Hatch also said Facebook was “working in lockstep with the government and NHS” and that it had “removed over 12 million pieces of misinformation” on the virus from its platforms.

Facebook attracted criticism last month after a dispute with the Australian government over paying news publishers for the use of their content led the social giant to attempt a ban on such news content Down Under. The ban was erratically implemented, with government health authorities finding that they had also been blocked – a situation of particular concern during a pandemic.

Read More: Twitter introduces “strike system” for vaccine misinformation.