The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Facebook removes faith-based website for ‘misleading’ coronavirus information

Facebook allegedly cited at least one article from April 9 — titled “COVID vaccines can be deadly for some” — as an example of content that triggered the removal of the page. (Johanna Geron/Reuters)

The ultraconservative website LifeSiteNews has been removed from Facebook, with the tech giant accusing the group of violating policies regarding the coronavirus.

LifeSiteNews, an often faith-themed website that describes as “a known purveyor of misleading information,” announced the Facebook ban on its own website Tuesday.

“Facebook has just permanently banned LifeSiteNews’ Facebook page,” the announcement read. “This apparently is not a temporary measure: It is gone for good.”

The announcement quoted LifeSiteNews marketing director Rebekah Roberts, who framed Facebook’s decision as “another case of Big Tech silencing free speech on their platform.”

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the removal of LifeSiteNews’ page to Religion News Service on Wednesday, saying: “We have removed this page for repeatedly violating our COVID-19 policies.”

On social media, vaccine misinformation mixes with extreme faith

According to LifeSiteNews, Facebook told the site’s marketing officials their Facebook page was taken down in accordance with the company’s policy of removing accounts that distribute “vaccine discouraging information on the platform.” It also allegedly accused the site of publishing “false information about COVID-19 that could contribute to physical harm.”

Facebook allegedly cited at least one article from April 9 — titled “COVID vaccines can be deadly for some” — as an example of content that triggered the removal of the page. The article, which remains on LifeSiteNews’ website, appears to be a repost from a blog titled “The Dark Side of Vaccines” and written by a self-described “health educator and wellness consultant.”

The article is misleading: It cited anecdotal reports of people dying after receiving coronavirus vaccines, but neither report cited by the author provided evidence to showcase a direct link between the vaccine and the deaths in question — a fact the author did not highlight. In fact, one of the anecdotal reports linked to in the article quoted a doctor declaring they “don’t have any data to suggest the [covid-19] vaccine has any affect in either direction” regarding a death.

Officials grapple with coronavirus vaccine hesitancy among Latino evangelicals

Multiple health agencies across the globe have deemed several coronavirus vaccines — including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that was the focus of the blog in question — highly effective and safe for use. Of the three approved for emergency use in the United States, only a one-dose vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson has received additional scrutiny from federal health officials since it was first granted emergency use authorization. Officials paused its use for a short span last month, but opted to reauthorize it alongside a warning about blood clots that had impacted six individuals out of more than 6.8 million people who had received the vaccine.

LifeSiteNews also said it was recently banned from YouTube.

Facebook did not respond to a request to confirm specific details of LifeSiteNews’ account of the ban.

— Religion News Service