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Lithuanian news websites delete public comments to prevent COVID-19 misinformation

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By AFP
Protesters at an anti-vaccination demonstration at Vilnius' Cathedral Square in September.
Protesters at an anti-vaccination demonstration at Vilnius' Cathedral Square in September.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis

Lithuania's largest news outlets will remove public comments from their websites to combat COVID-19 misinformation.

The organisations announced on Wednesday that viewers would not be able to publish anonymous comments on stories about COVID-19.

The move aims to combat a wave of conspiracy theories peddled by anti-vaccine activists, as well as online hate speech

"We are showing solidarity with the state and society in the joint effort to neutralise the misinformation spread by anti-vaxxers," said Arnas Marcinkus, president of the Lithuanian Online Media Association.

"The success of the vaccination campaign must be our common cause, without excluding the government or the media," he told AFP

"We all need solutions to get out of the pandemic," Marcinkus added.

Around 71% of adults in Lithuania have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 -- a higher rate than in many neighbouring countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

But cases of infection have increased in recent days, which prompted the government to impose further restrictions in September.