Meta says ramps up drive vs COVID-19 misinformation

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 27 2022 02:43 PM | Updated as of Jan 28 2022 10:38 AM

A 3D-printed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta and Facebook logo are placed on laptop keyboard in this illustration taken on November 2, 2021. Dado Ruvic, Reuters/Illustration/File Photo
A 3D-printed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta and Facebook logo are placed on laptop keyboard in this illustration taken on November 2, 2021. Dado Ruvic, Reuters/Illustration/File Photo

MANILA - At least 24 million pieces of content containing misinformation related to COVID-19 and vaccines have been removed by Facebook since the start of the pandemic, an official of its parent Meta said Thursday. 

Aside from taking down false information related to the pandemic, over 195 million pieces of content were also labeled by Facebook as COVID misinformation, Meta’s head of APAC Misinformation Policy Alice Budisatrijo told reporters in a virtual briefing.

"We remove contents and accounts that violate our community standards and harmful misinformation is included," Budisatrijo said.

"Even though we don’t have a policy that explicitly states that everything on Facebook must be true, we do have policies in place to address some of the most harmful types of false information, this includes, in the context of the pandemic, misinformation that relates to COVID-19 and vaccines," she added.

Meta said the following misinformation are not allowed on the platform:

• Misinformation that risks imminent physical harm or violence
• Manipulated videos or deep fakes that mislead people into believing that someone said something they never did 
• Voter suppression, or misinformation considered as voter interference 

Facebook is also continuously updating its community policies as technology, such as the ones used to create deep fakes, evolve and get cheaper, Budisatrijo said. 

False claims "that could discourage people from getting vaccinated" such as posts that said vaccines cause cancer or HIV have also been removed, she said.

Facebook earlier strengthened its policies on COVID-19 vaccine misinformation by reducing the reach of rule-breaking members in groups, limiting the distribution of posts from people who previously violated COVID-19 misinformation policies, and reducing the distribution of posts from people who repeatedly share debunked content, Meta said.

"Our community standards is a living document, meaning we’re constantly updating them to keep pace with the changing behavior and changing harmful trends online, so we continue to update our policies on COVID as the pandemic evolves," she said. 

A research published in August 2020 said that online misinformation about the virus and vaccines is a major concern

Several big technology companies since 2020 have ramped up efforts to curb false claims and content related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tech behemoth Google earlier said it blocked 99 million COVID-related ads in 2020 in a bid to curb opportunistic abuse during the pandemic. 

 CONNECTING USERS TO CREDIBLE INFORMATION

On top of taking down false claims, Facebook has been highlighting credible information in its fight against misinformation. 

"We believe that by giving people more information from actual experts on fact-checking, we actually serve to educate people about various information that is spreading on the platform," Budisatrijo said. 

Meta and Facebook are working with experts globally including the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other relevant authorities, she said. 

Since the pandemic, Meta said its data showed it was able to connect over 2 billion people from 189 countries with reliable health information using its COVID-19 misinformation center, among others. 

Several groups, accounts and pages in the Philippines have also been removed by the social media giant, including those liked to the military and the police, due to various policy violations including, but not limited to "coordinated inauthentic behavior," as part of its security measures to keep users safe.

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