Coronavirus Pandemic

India: Facebook, Instagram delete PIB factcheck post on Covid vaccine, restore later

Web Report/New Delhi
Filed on June 5, 2021

The two posts had earlier abruptly been pulled out by the sites.

India’s tough stance towards social media platforms has resulted in Facebook and Instagram restoring a fact-check post by the government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) rebutting a false claim linking Covid vaccinations to death. The two posts had earlier abruptly been pulled out by the sites.

The PIB Fact Check handle on May 25 debunked a claim on the two platforms, which said French Nobel Prize winner Luc Montagnier had warned that people getting vaccinated against Covid-19 would die within two years.

“An image allegedly quoting a French Nobel Laureate on #COVID19 vaccines is circulating on social media… The claim in the image is #FAKE… #COVID19 Vaccine is completely safe… Do not forward this image,” PIB said on its Fact Check handle.

Surprisingly, a day later the post was taken down by Facebook and Instagram (owned by FB). According to a news report, they also warned that PIB’s page could be unpublished for posting false news. PIB then informed the Indian IT ministry, which told Facebook and Instagram about the lack of transparency on appeals and the fact-check process.

The two platforms then restored the PIB Fact Check handle. Facebook confirmed to a newspaper that it had temporarily blocked the content by mistake, but restored it later.

“Both the platforms claim to have robust fact-checking mechanisms in place,” an IT ministry official told a newspaper. “When we reached out to them on this, they said that this was done inadvertently since a machine flagged it as false news. We have asked them as to why it was not cross-checked by a human fact checker.”

The ministry now wants social media intermediaries to be transparent about the fact-checking process and also share details of fact-checkers they have appointed.

The ministry last month had asked Twitter to remove the tag of ‘manipulated media’ from the posts of BJP members engaged in the ‘toolkit’ dispute with the Congress.

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