Meta Will Stop Removing COVID-19 Misinformation on Facebook, Instagram

Countries still affected by a COVID-19 public health emergency declaration will remain subject to fake news removal

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Meta updated its COVID-19 misinformation policy on Friday to not that, outside of countries that are still dealing with a COVID-19 emergency declaration, Meta will stop removing pandemic-related misinformation.

The original misinformation removal policy, which went into effect in July 2022, is no longer active in countries not experiencing an emergency declaration.

“In countries that have a COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, we will continue to remove content for violating our COVID-19 misinformation policies given the risk of imminent physical harm,” the official policy update reads. “We are consulting with health experts to understand which claims and categories of misinformation could continue to pose this risk. Our COVID-19 misinformation rules will no longer be in effect globally as the global public health emergency declaration that triggered those rules has been lifted.”

A Meta spokesperson declined to share additional comments on the policy update and linked to the company’s blog on the subject.

This update comes not long after a report surfaced indicating Meta had halted development on a misinformation-combatting tool that was iced as part of the company’s sizeable layoff efforts, reducing its headcount by approximately 21,000 employees.

This policy change happens amid the backdrop of social media companies being heavily scrutinized for their part in helping spread fake news, as well as for proliferating potentially harmful content.

Recently, the Supreme Court let social networks off the hook for hosting ISIS, with the ruling ultimately stating that giving individuals a platform does not immediately put all responsibility for their activity on the platform’s owners, just like how telephone companies aren’t liable if someone makes a threat via text or phone call. Despite the ruling, the debate about platforms’ responsibilities and role in content supervision continues.

Meta in particular has had to navigate tricky waters with regards to responsibly managing its social apps. Beyond the aforementioned COVID-19 misinformation rules rollback, it’s also grappling with the challenges of effectively cracking down on Instagram’s underage sex content circulators.