Social media giant Facebook is expanding the list of false claims to be expunged from its platforms, including Instagram, to include additional misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.
It comes as new data shows Canberrans are the least likely Australians to accept vaccine misinformation as truth.
Debunked claims that COVID-19 is man-made, that the vaccines are not effective at preventing the disease, or that it's safer to get the disease than to get the vaccine will be removed from Facebook platforms.
Users and private groups who repeatedly violate the policies on false claims may have their accounts and groups removed, the company warns.
"We will begin enforcing this policy immediately, with a particular focus on pages, groups and accounts that violate these rules, and we'll continue to expand our enforcement over the coming weeks," the company announced on Tuesday.
"Claims about COVID-19 or vaccines that do not violate these policies will still be eligible for review by our third-party fact-checkers, and if they are rated false, they will be labeled and demoted."
The company said it had taken the additional steps following consultation with the World Health Organization.
In the first six months since Facebook began putting warning labels on pandemic misinformation, the social media platform has flagged more than 167 million pieces of content for claims such as wearing a face mask does not help prevent the spread of the virus.
Australian health experts have been concerned that some members of the parliament have been posting misinformation about COVID-19 treatments that could undermine Australia's vaccine uptake strategy.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly has repeatedly taken to Facebook to defend his earlier posts about treatment claims since the government claimed the backbencher was counselled by Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week.
Mr Kelly's new posts do not mention the vaccines and appear not to violate Facebook's new policies. However, hundreds of user comments on his posts are drawing their own links referring to the "poisonous vaccine" that they claim is being forced on them by "corrupt politicians" and the news media.
Canberrans are the least likely Australians to fall victim to vaccine misinformation according to the latest data released by Facebook as part of an ongoing COVID-19 World Symptom Survey. The company is conducting the survey with Carnegie Mellon University and University of Maryland involving half a million responses each day.
Australia's vaccine acceptance rate is higher than most countries in Indo-Pacific, but substantially below acceptance in Europe.
If offered a vaccine for the coronavirus today, 77.4 per cent of Australians would accept. That compares with 81.5 per cent in Vietnam, 80.5 per cent in Thailand and 75 per cent in New Zealand. The Philippines has the lowest acceptance in the region with 59.4 per cent. The UK and most European countries have acceptance in close to 90 per cent.
Vaccine acceptance rates
- ACT: 80.353%
- NSW: 78.975%
- QLD: 75.478%
- SA: 79.376%
- TAS: 80.203%
- VIC: 78.129%
- WA: 76.626%
- NT: N/A
In Australia, the ACT has the highest acceptance with 80.4 per cent, with Tasmania, South Australia, NSW and Victoria not far behind. Queensland has the lowest acceptance with 75.5 per cent, followed by Western Australia with 76.6 per cent.