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Anti-Vaccination Content Online

Volume 688: debated on Thursday 4 February 2021

The Government take the issue of vaccine misinformation very seriously, and DCMS is leading work across Government to tackle this through the counter-disinformation unit. We are working closely with social media platforms to help them identify and take action to remove incorrect claims about the virus, including anti-vax content that could endanger people’s health.

My sister is bravely battling cancer for the second time, so I was excited to tell everyone who has supported her on social media last night that she would be receiving her vaccine on Saturday. Within minutes, some very special individual was spouting anti-vax nonsense on that post. In six months last year, Facebook removed 12 million pieces of content and put labels on 167 million more that failed fact checking. Anti-vax rhetoric puts lives at risk. What practical steps can my hon. Friend take to work with social media platforms to make the point that freedom of speech is not absolute if it leads to societal harm?

It is lovely to see my hon. Friend in real life. I am very sorry to hear about his sister’s health concerns. I wish her a very speedy recovery and I am really pleased that she has got her vaccination.

Freedom of expression is an essential quality for a thriving democracy, but the act of sharing misinformation should not be confused with well-intentioned citizens asking perfectly valid questions about the safety of the vaccine. Of course, it is really important that harmful disinformation that is designed to undermine people’s confidence in these vital vaccines is addressed and removed as quickly as possible. That is why we are working so closely with social media platforms and have secured a commitment with them to ensure that authoritative messages about vaccine safety reach as many people as possible.