Facebook, Twitter and Google have pledged to crack down on misinformation around a vaccine for COVID-19.
At a virtual roundtable event at the weekend the government and tech giants agreed new measures to ensure people can access accurate information.
The announcement has been welcomed by health professionals, particularly in the light of positive early results from trials by Pfizer and Biontech which suggest an effective COVID-19 vaccine may be within sight.
During the roundtable, ministers raised concerns about the length of time misleading and false information about potential coronavirus vaccines remains on social media.
The platforms have now agreed:
The policy forums are aimed at promoting co-operation between government, social media platforms, public health bodies and academics.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “COVID disinformation is dangerous and could cost lives. While social media companies are taking steps to stop it spreading on their platforms, there is much more that can be done.
“So I welcome this new commitment from social media giants not to profit from or promote flagged anti-vax content.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock added: “After clean water, vaccination is the most effective public health intervention in the world and has saved countless lives across the globe.
“We want social media users to have greater access to reliable and scientifically-accurate information on vaccines from trusted sources like the NHS so they can make informed decisions to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
Throughout the pandemic the government’s Counter Disinformation Unit has been developing a picture of the extent, scope and reach of disinformation and woking with online platforms to ensure action is taken.
In January this year Twitter launched a dedicated COVID-19 search prompt. To date over 160 million people have visited the Twitter COVID-19 curated page over two billion times.
Meanwhile Facebook has banned ads that include vaccine hoaxes or discourage people from getting a vaccine. The platform also puts warning labels over posts marked as false by third party fact checkers.
★ On November 16 Future Care Capital is holding a Getting Public Health Communication Right webinar. The event (from 4-5pm) will hear from experts on lessons to be learnt from the start of the pandemic and the first UK-wide lockdown. Details on how to register are available here