May 22, 2019

Facebook refuses to delete “anti-vaccine” videos

ISLAMABAD: As part of its polio campaign, the government is pushing Facebook to remove anti-vaccination videos. However, Facebook will not be removing them. Rather the social media platform has agreed to limit the reach of these videos.   

This was revealed by Prime Minister’s focal person on polio Babar bin Atta while talking to Dawn News.  Mr. Atta said that they wanted these videos removed as “a number of videos are shared on social media claiming that the vaccines are haram or they are used as a conspiracy against Muslims.”

Mr. Babar said that he raised this matter with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, PTA, chairman Maj. General (retd.) Amir Azeem Bajwa and sought his assistance to remove them. However, Mr. Atta claimed that “Facebook has informed the PTA that they cannot delete the videos, but have agreed to limit reach to these videos in Pakistan. However, we are insisting that those videos should be completely removed as, future of new generation is at stake due to those videos and messages.”

Digital Rights Monitor reached out to Facebook to inquire about why videos could not be removed. However, no response was received till the time of writing this report.

Mr. Atta also shared that the government had taken World Health Organization and Melinda and Gates Foundation on board and “also started efforts to involve other UN agencies to completely eradicate those videos from Facebook and YouTube.”

Reflecting on the need of removing such videos, Mr.Atta said that after the outbreak of measles last month,  many people in USA did not get their children vaccinated owing to anti-vaccine videos on social media. He indicated that this convinced the government to launch a crackdown against anti vaccine social media content.

It is to be noted that Pakistan is among the three countries left with polio.  Concerted efforts over the past one decade have significantly brought down the number of cases to 20 and 8 in 2016 and 2017 respectively. However, a dozen cases were reported in 2018 and four cases have already been reported during the first quarter of 2019.

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