Facebook taking steps to crack down on COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

After years of struggling to crack down on vaccine misinformation, Facebook is once again revising its policies to get tougher.

On Monday, the company announced several ways it plans to better combat vaccine misinformation, including making it harder to find accounts through searches on Facebook-owned Instagram that discourage people from getting vaccinated.

The announcement comes a day after CNN Business reported that Instagram continued to prominently feature anti-vaxxer accounts in its search results, while Facebook groups railing against vaccines remained easy to find. The findings raised concerns among public health experts, given the United States is in the midst of its largest vaccine rollout ever to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook said Monday that it's "expanding" its efforts to remove false claims on its namesake platform and Instagram about the coronavirus, COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in general during the pandemic.

The company also announced it will start showing links in its "COVID-19 Information Center" to local health websites to help users determine whether they are eligible to get the vaccine and how they can obtain one.

Facebook has long struggled with addressing anti-vaxxer content. In December, the company said it would take down claims about COVID-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health officials, such as baseless conspiracy theories that they contain microchips. Previously, Facebook's policies banned misinformation about COVID-19 that "contributes to the risk of imminent violence or physical harm."

Amid a measles outbreak in the US nearly two years ago, Facebook vowed to combat vaccine misinformation by limiting such content's reach on its platforms, but stopped short of a total ban. In March 2019, Facebook said it would "reduce the ranking of groups and Pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations" by not including them in recommendations or in predictions when users type into the search bar. But even then, anti-vaxxer information was easily searchable on Instagram.

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