Australia’s national medicines regulator is considering referring social media posts it deems vaccine “misinformation” to police over fears they could be in breach of the criminal code.
The move comes after comments appeared below a federal politician’s post on Facebook addressing vaccinations and coronavirus.
The comments falsely claimed coronavirus vaccines have caused 210 deaths, citing the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) weekly vaccine safety report from 27 May.
SBS News reports the actual TGA listing said: “Apart from the single Australian case in which death was linked to TTS [Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome or blood clots], COVID-19 vaccines have not been found to cause death.”
The TGA said in a statement some social media posts masquerading as official government health sources and promoting misinformation are “particularly concerning.”
The body said such actions could be a criminal offence, attracting a maximum penalty of two years in jail, and it was considering referring the matter to the Australian Federal Police (AFP). It continued:
The alleged posting particularly of the false information of the death counter from ‘COVID-19 vaccines’ with the Department’s and TGA’s apparent endorsement is particularly concerning.
The risk of such misinformation, in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, poses an unacceptable threat to Australians.
Labor lawmaker Julian Hill, who was reponsible for the initial post, said he was concerned by some of the comments attacking vaccines and their history of use in combating coronavirus.
Hill recounted there had been some 25,000 comments, “many of them incredibly worrying, downright dangerous and crazy stuff.”
“We need to make sure they’re [Australians are] getting proper information from credible sources – be that the Health Department or their doctor. Not believing stuff that is fake but actually looks real,” he said.
“That is the real concern. That people who are cautious and who are trying to work out what is right for them may actually believe this crazy stuff, which is being spread, which looks official.”
Facebook told SBS it had reviewed and removed certain comments from Hill’s initial post that violated the company’s misinformation policy.
The company said it had recently launched more options on the comment controls to restrict the audience members who can comment on posts — and was committed to actively removing misinformation on its platform.
“In fact, we’ve removed more than 18 million pieces of harmful COVID-19 misinformation and added warning labels to more than 167 million pieces of additional COVID-19 content.”
Breitbart News confirmed last month Facebook is working to censor vaccine concerns across its platform.
A recent report from Project Veritas claims Facebook is working to actively censor vaccine concerns across its platform. https://t.co/ie6s56Ie0h
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) May 25, 2021
Whistleblowers claim content that might promote “vaccine hesitancy,” such as shocking but true news stories, are downranked and censored by the social media giant.
In February, more than one-fifth of Australians said they “probably” or “definitely” won’t be vaccinated against coronavirus, with more recent polling putting the figure at one third.