Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Co-Founder and CEO, testifies before the House Financial Services Committee at the Rayburn House office building on Capitol Hill on October 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. On Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency scale, Zuckerberg testified how his company will handle false and misleading information from political leaders and how it will handle its users’ data and privacy during the 2020 campaign.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Despite a policy banning anti-vaccine messages from being sent on its platform, as of Friday afternoon, Facebook continued to host profile picture borders that users can use to promote their anti-Vax opinions.
After CNBC asked for a comment on one such frame claiming, “MY IMMUNE SYSTEM WORKS BETTER THAN THAT,” followed by a graphic of a syringe, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed the image had violated its guidelines and was removed . However, CNBC was quickly able to find at least a dozen other examples of profile picture frames announcing similar messages, or at least following Facebook’s guidelines.
The spokesman said Facebook was working to remove variations of the message from its frame options that appear above users’ profile pictures. Hours after they were first contacted by CNBC, many of the frames are still available for users to add to their profiles.
CNBC was able to identify several similar frames to the removed one by simply looking for the word “immune” in Facebook’s profile picture frame feature. Many contained blatant anti-vaccine messages such as “I trust my immune system! #NOTASHOT” and “F *** your Covid vaccine”.
U.S. government medical authorities have found that people who take the U.S.-approved Covid-19 vaccines have much better protection against the disease than people who have not received the vaccines. Authorities have stated that the benefits of these Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccines far outweigh the risks.
Other frames identified by CNBC were clearly against vaccines but did not explicitly use the word vaccine or shots.
An example of a frame in which the vaccine was not specifically mentioned was “I have an immune system! #MedicalFreedom” accompanied by “My body, my choice”. Another included the “I trust my immune system” messages with “COVID-19 SURVIVOR” and “MY DNA MY CHOICE,” which appears to hint at the false claim by anti-vaccine advocates that the gunshots were a person’s DNA can change (you cannot).
Some contain emojis of syringes, but no written language about the vaccines. For example, a frame identified by CNBC had pictures of syringes crossed out and the words “I have an immune system”.
Facebook didn’t immediately respond when asked if using emojis could allow a frame to evade identification by its system as a violation of its guidelines. It also did not immediately provide details of how long the frames were active and how many users added or viewed them.
However, the spokesperson noted that pro-vaccine frames on Facebook have had a lot of resonance.
“In countries where vaccines are widely available, such as the US and UK, we have stepped up our efforts to show people when their friends and neighbors share their support for vaccines through profile frames and stickers,” Facebook wrote in a blog post earlier this week. “More than 5 million people worldwide have used these profile frames. And more than 50% of the people in the US on Facebook have seen someone use the COVID-19 vaccine profile frames, which we are working with the US Department of Health and have developed human services and centers for disease control and prevention. “
During the pandemic, Facebook and other social media companies put guidelines in place to combat misinformation about both the virus and the vaccine. Facebook has an in-depth guide on the types of anti-vaccine content that is banned on their website. These include a ban on “claims that anything other than a COVID-19 vaccine can vaccinate you against COVID-19” and “promoting alternative or natural treatments” immunity, celebrating those who refuse to be vaccinated, and promoting unspecified refusal to vaccinate medical reasons or guidelines. “