Social Media

Facebook will make no changes to its Covid-19 related policies

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on February 26, 2021

Move contradicts to the recommendation made by the Facebook Oversight Board

Facebook will make no changes to its Covid-19 related policies, contrary to the recommendation made by the Facebook Oversight Board.

The Oversight Board in January this year published decisions on their first set of cases, which we immediately implemented by the social media major. The board, alongside the decisions also published recommendations covering 17 areas where Facebook could improve its content moderation.

In addition to the Oversight Board’s binding rulings on content, we are committed to consider its recommendations and communicate transparently about actions taken.

The social media major will address 11 of these recommendations and is assessing the feasibility of five more. However, one of the recommendations that it will take no action on is its Covid-19 policies.

“In cases where users post information about Covid-19 treatments that contradicts the specific advice of health authorities and where a potential for physical harm is identified but is not imminent, Facebook should adopt a range of less intrusive measures,” reads the board’s recommendation.

It stemmed from a case where the platform removed a user’s post for stating that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin were effective treatments for Covid-19.

“We agree with the board that less intrusive measures should be used where a potential for physical harm is identified but is not imminent. That said, we disagree with the board that the content implicated in this case does not rise to the level of imminent harm,” Facebook said.

“We will continually evaluate and calibrate our response to content about Covid-19 treatments based on information from public health authorities,” it added.

The tech giant further said that it was consulting with public health authorities across the globe including the World Health Organisation. And as per its global expert stakeholder consultations, such misinformation does lead to imminent physical harm in the context of a health emergency.

Also read: Intermediary rules get mixed reaction from Internet societies, experts

“That is why we remove this content from the platform,” it said.

The board had decided to allow the content owing to the fact that the person who posted the content was based in France where it is not possible to obtain hydroxychloroquine without a prescription.

“However, readers of French content may be anywhere in the world, and cross-border flows for medication are well established. The fact that a particular pharmaceutical item is only available via prescription in France should not be a determinative element in decision-making,” it said.

Facebook further said that though it had restored the content based on the board’s decision, it will take no further action on the recommendation related to its Covid-19 policies since it believed that it already employs the least intrusive enforcement measures given the likelihood of imminent harm.

“We will continue to rely on extensive consultation with leading public health authorities to tell us what is likely to contribute to imminent physical harm. During a global pandemic, this approach will not change,” it said.

Published on February 26, 2021

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