Twitter will start removing false or misleading tweets about COVID-19 vaccinations that could be harmful, including false claims vaccines would intentionally cause harm or control populations, or that invoke “a deliberate conspiracy”.
Twitter’s policy update, announced in a blog post the same week that the first Americans received COVID-19 vaccinations as part of a mass immunisation campaign, also said users could be required to remove tweets with false claims about the adverse effects of receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
The new policy will start to be enforced next week.
Conspiracy theories and misinformation about coronavirus and its potential vaccines have proliferated on social media platforms during the pandemic.
Twitter said it may also label or place a warning on tweets with “unsubstantiated rumours, disputed claims, as well as incomplete or out-of-context information” about the vaccines, starting early next year.
A Twitter spokeswoman said the company would determine with public health partners which vaccine misinformation was harmful enough to warrant removal.
In July, the eldest son of US President Donald Trump was blocked from tweeting for 12 hours after he posted a misleading video of doctors touting hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19 and also discounted the need for face masks amid the pandemic.
The video was also taken down by Facebook and YouTube — after racking up millions of views — for breaking their rules on COVID-19 misinformation.
President Donald Trump had also retweeted posts containing a link to the misleading video which accused Anthony Fauci and Democrats of suppressing the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine.
The tweets, shared by the President to his 84 million followers, were deleted.
A few months earlier, Mr Trump accused Twitter of “completely stifling free speech” after it flagged some of his tweets with a fact-check warning.
Facebook and YouTube have both in recent weeks announced bans on false claims about vaccines that go against information from public health experts.
Twitter previously required users to remove tweets with false or misleading information about the nature of coronavirus, the efficacy or safety of preventative measures or treatments, official regulations or the risk of infection or death.
The company said it hides such tweets and blocks users from tweeting again until they remove them.
Twitter said it would enforce the updated policy from December 21 and would expand these actions in the following weeks.
The number of people who have died from coronavirus in the US passed 300,000 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University, with about 2,500 people now dying per day on average.