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Facebook says it will remove false claims about COVID-19 vaccines

Facebook has announced plans to remove misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines from the site.

The company on Thursday said that "over the coming weeks," it will "start removing false claims" about COVID-19 vaccines "that have been debunked by public health experts" from Facebook and Instagram. Facebook said this could "include false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of the vaccines," as well as false conspiracy theories about them, such as the claim that "specific populations are being used without their consent to test the vaccine's safety."

Previously, Facebook announced in October it would be banning any advertisements "discouraging people from getting vaccinated" in addition to its previous policy of banning ads with vaccine hoaxes. It had also previously "downranked" misinformation about other kinds of vaccines to make it less visible, The New York Times reports.

"This is another way that we are applying our policy to remove misinformation about the virus that could lead to imminent physical harm," Facebook said Thursday.

The move comes after two companies applied for emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for their COVID-19 vaccine candidates, and after a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech earned approval in the U.K. Facebook also recently removed some large anti-vaccine groups from the platform, but NBC News reported that "new research shows the bigger threat to public trust in a COVID-19 vaccine comes from smaller, better-connected Facebook groups that gravitated to anti-vaccination messaging in recent months."

Facebook said its new policy won't start being enforced "overnight," though, adding that it will "regularly update the claims we remove based on guidance from public health authorities as they learn more."