Anti-vaccine groups avoid Facebook bans by using emojis
Slices of pizza, cupcakes and carrots are just a few emojis that anti-vaccine activists use to speak in code and keep spreading misinformation about COVID-19 on Facebook. Ars Technica reports: Bloomberg reported that Facebook moderators have failed to remove posts shared in anti-vaccine groups and on pages that would normally be considered to violate content, if not for code language. A group Bloomberg reviewed, called ‘Suddenly Died’, is a meeting place for anti-vaccine activists who are supposed to mourn a loved one who died after receiving vaccines – whom they describe as ‘eating the cake’ . Facebook owner Meta told Bloomberg it “has removed more than 27 million pieces of content for violating its COVID-19 misinformation policy, an ongoing process,” but declined to say. in Ars if posts relying on emojis and coded language were considered to violate the policy.
According Facebook Community Standards, the company says it will “remove misinformation during public health emergencies”, such as the pandemic, “when public health authorities conclude that the information is false and likely to directly contribute to the risk of imminent physical harm” . Pages or groups risk of being deleted if they violate Facebook’s rules or if they “instruct or encourage users to use code words when discussing vaccines or COVID-19 to evade our detection”. However, the policy remains vague regarding the day-to-day use of emojis and codewords. The only policy Facebook appears to have on books directly discussing the inappropriate use of emojis as coded language deals with community standards regarding sexual solicitation. It seems that while anti-vaccine users’ emoji language can be expected to be unmoderated, anyone using “context-specific and generally sexual emojis or emoji strings” is actually at risk of having their posts deleted. if moderators determine that they are using emojis to request or offer sex. .
In total, Bloomberg reviewed six anti-vaccine groups created last year where Facebook users use emojis like peaches and apples to suggest that people they know have been harmed by vaccines. Meta’s apparent failure to moderate anti-vaccine emoji language suggests that blocking coded language is probably not currently a priority. Last year, when the BBC discovered that anti-vaccine groups were using carrots to mask misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, Meta immediately removed identified groups. However, the BBC reported that soon after the same groups reappeared, and more recently Bloomberg reported that some of the groups he followed appeared to change names frequently, perhaps to avoid detection.