Story at a glance
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the online platform will not censor anti-vaccination posts or content.
- This follows a lawsuit filed against the social media titan by the Children’s Health Defense, a leading anti-vaccination group.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg says in a new interview that the social media giant has no intention of removing anti-vaccination posts.
Zuckerberg’s remarks come as several companies, such as Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer, are in the late stages of clinical trials for their COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
Social media platforms like Facebook have worked to limit the spread of misinformation about COVID-19, though critics warn that inaccurate information spread about a potential future coronavirus vaccine could undermine efforts to build immunity against the disease.
“We work with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and we work with the [World Health Organization] and trusted health organizations to remove clear misinformation about health-related issues that could cause an imminent risk of harm,” Zuckerberg said in an interview on “Axios on HBO.”
“If someone is pointing out a case where a vaccine caused harm or that they’re worried about it — you know, that’s a difficult thing to say from my perspective that you shouldn’t be allowed to express at all,” he added later.
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Facebook has been under fire recently for its content policies, especially among lawmakers who advocate better content regulation on the site during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company has also faced scrutiny over its handling of political ads with false information, with Facebook recently announcing it will ban new political ads related to the presidential election within seven days of the Nov. 3 vote to reduce the spread of misinformation.
“During a global pandemic, Facebook is looking the other way while disinformation about the coronavirus goes viral on its platform — a direct threat to the health and safety of millions of people,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said to The Hill. “No company should be too big to be held accountable for distorting facts and spreading falsehoods, especially during a public health crisis.”
In August, a leading anti-vaccination advocacy group called the Children’s Health Defense (CHD) sued Facebook and its fact-checking network, alleging that Facebook illegally suppressed and censored its content by implementing warning labels that work to flag disinformation on CHD’s official Facebook page. The plaintiff says that these actions are in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution that guarantees the freedom of speech.
Zuckerberg has defended the use of fact-checking companies, like Politifact and Science Feedback, as mitigating third parties to evaluate the potential spread of misinformation on the platform.
“What we try to say is if people are overgeneralizing things, if they’re spreading misinformation and we can defer to a third party fact checker or an organization like the CDC or WHO on kind of clear health guidelines on things that could lead to imminent harm, if people don’t follow them, then we will we will try to take action against those,” he told Axios.
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