In a significant move, Meta is amending its misinformation rules related to COVID-19 on Instagram and Facebook. The change applies to countries where the pandemic is no longer classified as a national emergency. Countries like the US and several other territories, where the COVID-19 crisis has eased, will see these policy changes.
The review of the misinformation policy was initiated by Meta last July, seeking guidance from its Oversight Board. The company noted that the pandemic had evolved and it needed to reassess its approach. The Oversight Board deliberated on the matter and, in April, recommended that Meta should continue to eliminate false COVID-19 information that could potentially lead to immediate and significant physical harm.
Moreover, the Board also instructed Meta to reassess the types of pandemic claims it takes down under the policy, in light of the evolving situation. The Oversight Board stressed the importance of protecting freedom of expression and other human rights when the World Health Organization (WHO) would eventually revoke the COVID-19 emergency status.
In May, the WHO officially lifted its COVID-19 emergency designation. Following this, Meta has now shared its revised approach towards the Oversight Board's recommendations in an updated blog post.
Meta stated, "We will take a more tailored approach to our COVID-19 misinformation rules consistent with the Board’s guidance and our existing policies. 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."
As part of this modified policy, Meta will be consulting with health experts to understand which claims and categories of misinformation could still pose a risk. With the global public health emergency declaration lifted, Meta's COVID-19 misinformation rules will no longer apply globally. Instead, the policy will be region-specific, reflecting the current health situation of each country.