Writer: Naveed Siddiqui
Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar bin Atta on Friday said that a large number of posts on social media that were spreading “hatred and misinformation” about polio vaccination have been removed.
In a statement today, Atta said that a large number of Facebook posts, hundreds of videos from YouTube and tweets have been removed. He added that Google has also issued a warning to those who were spreading anti-polio vaccine content on YouTube and that the process of issuing warnings is ongoing.
Atta said that the government has decided to speed up legal prosecution following a long video conference with Facebook officials.
In a post shared on Twitter on Thursday, Atta confirmed that social media platforms, including Facebook, had started to delete and block some of the material “spreading hatred and misinformation regarding polio vaccines in Pakistan”.
I can now comfirm with authenticity, that global Social Media Platforms including @facebook has started to delete/Block some of the material spreading hatred & misinformation regarding Polio Vaccines in Pakistan. @Twitter & @Google has also removed some material, details awaited.
— Babar Atta (@babarbinatta) May 9, 2019
The focal person on polio eradication had earlier written a letter to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
In a letter to Atta yesterday, following his meeting with the PTA chairman, the telecommunication authority provided a summary of anti-vaccination links that been blocked as of May 9:
- Facebook: 130
- Twitter: 14
- YouTube: 30
As a whole, 174 anti-vaccination links have been blocked so far.
— Babar Atta (@babarbinatta) May 10, 2019
Last week, Pakistan had urged Facebook to remove harmful polio-related content from the social networking site, saying it was jeopardising eradication initiatives and putting the lives of vaccinators at risk.
In recent months social media in the country has been inundated with fake news reports and videos — garnering thousands of views and shares in the last week alone — claiming numerous children have been killed by the polio vaccine. Thousands of parents have refused to allow their children to be inoculated.
At least three people were killed in the last country-wide anti-polio campaign in April.
The violence coincided with an outbreak of hysteria in cities across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after rumours of children suffering from adverse reactions to a polio vaccine sparked panic, with tens of thousands rushed to hospitals.