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.

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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.”

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