Facebook has banned misinformation about all vaccines following years of harmful, unfounded health claims proliferating on its platform.

As part of its policy on Covid-19-related misinformation, Facebook will now remove posts with false claims about all vaccines, the company announced in a blogpost on Monday.

These new community guidelines apply to user-generated posts as well as paid advertisements, which were already banned from including such misinformation. Instagram users will face the same restrictions.

“We will begin enforcing this policy immediately, with a particular focus on Pages, groups and accounts that violate these rules,” said Guy Rosen, who oversees content decisions. “We’ll continue to expand our enforcement over the coming weeks.”

Groups on Facebook have been known to create echo chambers of misinformation and have fueled the rise of anti-vaccine communities and rhetoric. Under the new policy, groups where users repeatedly share banned content will be shut down.

Facebook has repeatedly updated its policies on Covid-19 content as the pandemic has evolved. In April 2020, it began to add to posts about coronavirus a panel of facts from the CDC to combat misinformation. It often made misinformation about vaccines less visible on its platform but stopped short of removing it.

This began to change in December, when the company strengthened its coronavirus policies and began to remove posts about Covid-19 that had been debunked by public health experts. This included posts suggesting vaccines contain microchips, claims that wearing a face mask does not help prevent the spread of Covid-19, and claims that 5G technology contributes to or causes coronavirus infections.

Facebook will now broaden this ban, addressing false claims that Covid-19 is synthetic, that vaccines are not effective at preventing the disease, or that it’s safer to get the disease than to get the vaccine.

The ban does not stop at Covid-related content and will also target falsehoods including suggesting vaccines cause autism – a baseless claim made by many in the anti-vax community.

Despite the new policy, vaccine misinformation remains on Facebook and Instagram, which Facebook owns. Top search results for “Covid vaccine” on Instagram were still turning up conspiracy theory accounts on Monday morning.

Facebook has faced criticism in recent months for its handling of Covid-19 misinformation. In December it allowed a prominent conspiracy theory video to go viral on the platform, and later it failed to successfully remove pages of a prominent anti-vaccine activist who continued to create new accounts after he was banned.

Matilda Boseley contributed reporting

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