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Oversight Board Takes the Facebook Referral on Covid-19 Case

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The independent Oversight Board on Wednesday said it had accepted a referral from Facebook on a case related to Covid-19 in Brazil.

In this case, a post by a state-level medical authority in Brazil claimed that Covid-19 lockdowns are ineffective, against people’s rights, and condemned by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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The case raises important questions about Facebook’s misinformation and harm policy. The company has asked the Board to review its decision to allow the post to remain on its platform, stating that “this content does not violate Facebook’s policies, but can still be read by some people as advocacy for taking certain safety measures during the pandemic,” the Board said in a statement.

In March 2021, the Facebook page of a state-level medical authority in Brazil posted a picture of a written notice with messaging on measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

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The notice claims that lockdowns are ineffective, against the fundamental rights of the Constitution, and are condemned by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The content was viewed around 32,000 times and shared over 270 times. No users reported the content. Facebook took no action against the content and referred the case to the Board. The content remains on the platform.

In its referral to the Board, Facebook said that the case is “difficult because this content does not violate Facebook’s policies, but can still be read by some people as advocacy for taking certain safety measures during the pandemic.”

The Board is now seeking public comments that address whether Facebook’s decision to take no action against the content was consistent with its Community Standards and other policies, including the Misinformation and Harm policy.

In February this year, Facebook disagreed with one Covid-19 related recommendation made by the independent Oversight Board, saying that this will lead to softening its enforcement of misinformation related to the pandemic.

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