Politics

Facebook partners with Ottawa to educate the public about vaccines

Social media giant Facebook is releasing a plan today to educate the public about COVID-19 vaccines in collaboration with the federal government.

Plan includes a Q&A with Dr. Theresa Tam on COVID-19 vaccines hosted on the platform

Facebook Canada has announced a number of initiatives to promote information about COVID-19 vaccines, including a Facebook Live Q&A with Canada's top doctor. (Richard Drew/The Associated Press)

Social media giant Facebook is releasing a plan today to educate the public about COVID-19 vaccines in collaboration with the federal government.

One of the planned initiatives is a Facebook live Q&A on vaccines featuring Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer. Dr Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, and Dr Evan Adams, the deputy chief medical officer at Indigenous Services Canada, will also participate.

"The Public Health Agency is committed to providing Canadians with accurate information on vaccine safety and effectiveness. I know that Canadians also discuss and share health information they receive from friends, family and community leaders," Tam said in a press release.

"That is why we are working with content creators to make sure they feel empowered and have access to credible information, to have conversations about COVID-19 vaccines with their communities."

The event will take place on March 31 at 1 p.m. on Facebook Canada's Facebook page. The event will be co-hosted by Samantha Yammine, a popular science communicator, and Danielle Nadin from CIHR Institute of Gender and Health.

Further measures

The company says it also will start to include content from provincial health organizations in its COVID-19 Information Centre, a page that compiles information and data about COVID-19 and vaccinations. 

Kevin Chan, Facebook Canada's global director and head of public policy, said the company has been working with the government since the start of the pandemic to provide accurate information about the virus. He said that with vaccinations ramping up, it made sense to continue the partnership with an additional focus on vaccines.

"When we saw that, globally and in Canada, we're rounding the bend, we're moving to a phase where it's going to be about distribution of the vaccine ... it just seemed very natural to further that partnership," he said in an interview.

"I think this is an attempt to address the information ecosystem that we have to work in partnership to get right. Ultimately, Canadians are going to say what they want to say, and they're going to feel what they feel about the vaccine. We think our role is to make sure they get as much good information as possible about it."

Facebook Canada has said it would welcome rules on what content should be allowed on social media platforms.

According to the company, it has removed over 2 million pieces of content that contained misinformation or disinformation since February. It also says it has put information labels on over 167 million pieces of content related to COVID-19.

Facebook Canada's global director and head of public policy Kevin Chan says the company wants to work in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada to get "good" information about COVID-19 vaccines to Canadians. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Chan said that Facebook is rolling out expanded information labelling on posts about COVID and the vaccine — labelling that won't be limited to misinformation or disinformation.

"It's really not enough to just remove harmful misinformation — you have to be able to give Canadians good information," he said.

The company also plans to host an event in collaboration with the government aimed at educating content creators on how to provide their audience with credible health information.

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