Social media platform Twitter announced Wednesday that starting next week it would begin removing false or misleading tweets about COVID-19 vaccinations that could be harmful to public health.
Twitter's policy update was announced in a blog post in the same week that the first doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine were delivered across the US and about a week before the European Union is expected to decide on the same vaccine. The post said the tweets saying the virus was not real, sharing debunked claims of the effects of receiving the vaccine and that immunizations are used to harm or control people would have to be removed.
Twitter said it may also place a label on tweets with "unsubstantiated rumors, disputed claims, as well as incomplete or out-of-context information" about the vaccines beginning early 2021.
A Twitter spokeswoman said the company would work with public health partners to determine what vaccine misinformation items were harmful enough to require removal. The platform said it would enforce the updated policy starting on December 21 and expand the actions in the coming weeks.
Falsehoods abound online
Social media platforms have been breeding grounds for conspiracy myths and spreading misinformation surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Facebook and YouTube have announced bans on false claims about the vaccine that go against public health experts. Several countries have reported residents becoming hesitant or unwilling to receive a vaccine, which could hamper herd immunity.
Twitter previously removed posts with misleading information about the nature of COVID-19, the efficacy or safety of preventative measures or the risk of infection.
More than 1.6 million people have died from the virus around the world, including 300,000 in the US, since the start of the pandemic nearly one year ago.
kbd/sms (AP, Reuters)