Social media platforms initiate crackdown on anti-polio posts


–Govt inks agreements with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube to ban propaganda material

ISLAMABAD: Social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, have started deleting and blocking material spreading misinformation regarding polio vaccines in Pakistan because of which the nationwide drive has suffered countless losses.

Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar bin Atta said that a large number of posts, which were spreading misinformation, have been removed in the crackdown.

He said that hundreds of Facebook posts, tweets and videos have been removed in the crackdown and Google has issued warnings to those spreading misinformation on YouTube. He also said that the government has decided to speed up legal persecution following a long video conference with Facebook officials.

“I can now confirm with authenticity that global social media platforms, including Facebook, have started to delete/block some of the material spreading hatred and misinformation regarding polio vaccines in Pakistan,” he said, adding that Twitter and Google have removed a huge chunk of such content.

“Grateful to Facebook for removing some #antivaxxer content on polio from Pakistan and verifying our official pages. Links given below. Expecting the same cooperation from @Twitter @Google,” he tweeted.

This comes as an important development amid reports of an increase in the emergence of polio cases in various parts of the country, especially cities like Lahore which were once considered to be protected from poliovirus.

Babar said that an agreement was signed with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and the accounts of those uploading fake videos in this context would be blocked.

Last month, a fake video gained prominence on Twitter and Facebook, showing school children admitted to a medical facility after complaints of developing illness following the administration of the anti-polio vaccine.

In the video, Nazar Muhammad, a resident of Peshawar’s Mashokhel area can be seen blaming the vaccine for the leading to deteriorating health of children. In another video, he tells the reporters that some children died following the administration of the vaccine.

Nazar was later arrested by polio along with his accomplices. However, the damage had already been done and the backlash prompted the government to halt the anti-polio campaign.

It is worth mentioning here that Pakistan is one of the three remaining countries in the world where poliomyelitis (polio) is still categorised as an endemic viral infection, the others being Afghanistan and Nigeria.