says it has started to remove stories linking coronavirus and 5G – but only if they will cause physical harm.
The site said that it is taking “aggressive steps” to remove such misinformation as part of its response to coronavirus hoaxes and false stories more generally.
But it will only take down those posts that are likely to cause physical harm, rather than any posts that include false claims about a link between phone masts and the covid-19 outbreak.
Facebook’s definition of physical harm includes cases of posts that include false claims about cures, treatments or the location and severity of the outbreak. If a Facebook users suggested it was safe to go outside because coronavirus is not real, for instance, it would be contravention of Facebook’s definition of physical harm.
The company is also removing posts that encourage people to attack cellular towers or 5G masts.
If the posts do not violate its rules on physical harm or attacks, it will instead attempt to “debunk” those claims. If a fact-checker rates the stories as false, it will attempt to limit its distribution and add warning labels to anyone who sees it or tries to share it.
The conspiracy theory – which suggests that coronavirus is somehow related to the rollout of 5G – has spread widely across social media in recent days, after being amplified by a series of viral posts, celebrities and a widely popular petition.
“We are taking aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content from spreading on our platforms and connect people to accurate information about Coronavirus,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
“Under our existing policies against harmful misinformation, we are starting to remove false claims which link COVID-19 to 5G technology and could lead to physical harm. We will continue to work closely with governments and other tech companies to remove harmful misinformation and have partnered with health authorities like the WHO and NHS to connect people to the latest official guidance.”
Facebook has attempted to defend itself against criticism of its approach to coronovirius,and the way that it as well as WhatsApp and Instagram have served as platforms for spreading hoaxes and false stories. Its approach has included boosting information from the WHO and NHS.