Facebook, Instagram Consider Whether To Keep Removing False COVID Claims

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced Tuesday it will consider easing its COVID-19 misinformation policy to allow posts that make false claims about the coronavirus to stay on the platform.

The company has removed over 25 million pieces of content, including false pandemic claims around masks, social distancing and vaccines, since the beginning of the pandemic, senior Meta executive Nick Clegg said in a statement announcing the move.

Clegg, the company’s president of global affairs, said Meta is now looking to its oversight board ― a panel of experts appointed from outside the company to weigh content-moderation decisions ― to decide whether this practice is still “appropriate.” Instead of deleting those pieces of content, Meta could instead label them, demote them or use a third-party fact-checking system to assess them.

“As the pandemic has evolved, the time is right for us to seek input from the Oversight Board about our measures to address COVID-19 misinformation, including whether those introduced in the early days of an extraordinary global crisis remains the right approach for the months and years ahead,” Clegg said. “The world has changed considerably since 2020.”

The company started applying an expanded misinformation policy in January 2020, prompting the “removal of entire categories of false claims on a worldwide scale.”

Clegg said while each country is at a different stage in its fight against the coronavirus, the landscape is vastly different compared to 2020.

“The pandemic itself has also evolved. In many countries, where vaccination rates are relatively high, life is increasingly returning to normal. But this isn’t the case everywhere and the course of the pandemic will continue to vary significantly around the globe,” Clegg said.

When asked for comment on the decision, Meta pointed to Clegg’s post.

Cases around the world continue to rise, driven by the spread of the highly contagious BA.5 variant, which has shown increasing resistance to existing vaccines and prior infection, according to Reuters.

Pfizer and Moderna are reportedly already working on a COVID-19 booster shot targeting both the BA.5 and BA.4 variants.

Meta is also facing a tough business environment. The company is expected to release its highly anticipated second-quarter results Wednesday, with investors looking at its advertising business and how it’s faring against steep competition from rival platforms like TikTok, according to CNBC.

Celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner also blasted Instagram on Tuesday for making changes that made the app look too much like TikTok.