Sunday 15 November 2020 10:38 am

Labour calls for anti-vax conspiracy theories to be censored on social media

Labour is calling for anti-vaccine conspiracy theories to be censored on social media.

The opposition has called for Boris Johnson to bring forward legislation to “stamp out dangerous anti-vax content” as UK regulators prepare to assess Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine candidate.

Read more: Covid alliance raises $2bn to distribute vaccine to poor countries

Labour wants this to include financial and criminal penalties for social media sites that do not delete anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories.

Hopes are rising that the UK will be able to begin a rollout of the Pfizer and BioNTEch vaccine this year, however there are concerns about the proliferation of baseless conspiracy theories scaring people away from accepting the jab.

Before the Open newsletter: Start your day with the City View podcast and key market data

A YouGov poll from June showed a staggering 33 per cent of Britons would refuse a Covid vaccine if made available.

In a letter to culture secretary Oliver Dowden, shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens and shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said the “spread of disinformation online presents a real and present danger”.

Read more: Anti-vaxxers may be barred from pubs and offices: Senior Tory MP

“It has been clear for years that this is a widespread and growing problem and the government knows, because Labour has been warning them for some time, that it poses a real threat to the take up of the vaccine,” they said.

“This is literally a matter of life and death and anyone who is dissuaded from being vaccinated because of this is one person too many.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Grant Shapps rules out Brexit disruption to vaccine delivery

A government spokesperson said: “Letting vaccine disinformation spread unchecked could cost British lives.

“We take this issue extremely seriously and have secured a major commitment from Facebook, Twitter and Google to tackle it by not profiting from such material, and by responding to flagged content more swiftly.”