Facebook on a new mission to curb COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

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By Hebe Campbell
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Facebook logo displayed on an iPad   -   Copyright  Matt Rourke/Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu

Facebook says it will begin labelling all posts mentioning COVID-19 vaccines with a link to credible information from the World Health Organization.

It will also be reducing the distribution of content from users that have violated its policies on vaccine and COVID-19 misinformation.

A new feature will also help people find where and when they can get vaccinated and have partnered with health authorities and governments on vaccine registration, along with expanding its COVID-19 Information Center to Facebook-owned Instagram.

They will also be making real-time aggregate trends in COVID-19 vaccinations, aiming to encourage people to get vaccinated as well as providing data on the "reasons for hesitancy" to public officials.

The platform's new efforts come as many countries halt the roll-out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after reports of blood clots. That, it is feared, could spark a drop in people's confidence in vaccines. 

"Today we're launching a global campaign to help bring 50 million people a step closer to getting COVID-19 vaccines." CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Monday.

"By working closely with national and global health authorities and using our scale to reach people quickly, we’re doing our part to help people get credible information, get vaccinated and come back together safely," Facebook said in a statement.

Facebook has come under scrutiny during the pandemic about the amount of health misinformation on its platform.

The human trials of the COVID-19 vaccines began in June 2020 and it saw a wave of unmoderated misinformation about the safety of the jabs on social media.

A study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that out of five profiles on Instagram, following a range of topics, Instagram's algorithm pushed 104 posts containing misinformation, many of which were anti-vaccination content. This was over a two-month period from September to November 2020.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, disagrees with this study's findings and claim the report is months out of date and uses an extremely small sample size.