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Facebook vows to remove false claims about COVID-19 vaccines

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Facebook says it will remove bogus claims about coronavirus vaccines from its platforms in its latest effort to clamp down on misinformation during the pandemic.

The social network’s Thursday announcement came as officials around the world make plans to distribute the shots with regulators expected to approve them for emergency use in the coming weeks.

The Silicon Valley titan said it will target false statements about the vaccines that have been “debunked by public health experts” on Facebook and Instagram.

Those include baseless claims that the shots contain microchips along with bogus conspiracy theories, such as the idea that certain groups of people are being used to test the vaccine’s safety without their consent, Facebook said.

“We will not be able to start enforcing these policies overnight,” Kang-Xing Jin, Facebook’s head of health, said in a blog post. “Since it’s early and facts about COVID-19 vaccines will continue to evolve, we will regularly update the claims we remove based on guidance from public health authorities as they learn more.”

Facebook cast the move as an extension of its efforts to wrangle misinformation about the coronavirus in general. The company first pledged in January to crack down on COVID-19 conspiracy theories but it has since scrambled to purge some bogus content, such as a viral short film called “Plandemic” that circulated in the spring.

The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to decide this month whether to clear Pfizer and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines for emergency use. Officials will likely have to combat skepticism about vaccines as they try to inoculate the public — about half of Americans surveyed in September said they would not take a vaccine if it were available, according to the Pew Research Center.

Facebook shares were down about 1.2 percent at $283.96 as of 11:33 a.m. Thursday.

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