What you need to know
- Facebook has vowed tougher measures to suppress false conspiracy theories about 5G and COVID-19.
- It says it will remove stories that could cause physical harm.
- It comes after a weekend of reports where UK engineers were threatened and 5G towers were burned down.
A report by the Independent states that Facebook has said it will actively remove stories linking 5G and the coronavirus pandemic that could cause physical harm.
According to the report:
Facebook 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.
Now physical harm is not just limited to violence from those propagating the story, or those who could be impacted by the burning of masts. It also includes claims about cures, treatments or the location/severity of the outbreak. For example, spreading false information regarding whether or not it was safe to travel or to flout social distancing could see your post get removed.
Facebook will also remove posts that encourage acts of arson against 5G masts.
Over the weekend we reported a spate of attacks whereby UK broadband engineers were threatened with verbal and physical abuse. It was also reported that several cities had seen 5G masts and mobile network towers (even ones that don't provide 5G) target by arson. As our report confirmed, there were also examples of violent threats against NHS patients on coronavirus wards in the UK, like the one below.
Thankfully, it seems that enough of a media storm was kicked up such that Facebook is taking these threats seriously. Sadly, however, these measures will not extend to propagating stories or information about the conspiracy if no one is under threat of physical harm. But it's a start.