Facebook is creating a tool for understanding COVID-19 vaccine availability, including tools to make appointments for vaccination, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced today. The company hopes to bring 50 million people “a step closer” to getting vaccines.
“The data shows the vaccines are safe and they work,” Zuckerberg writes. “They’re our best hope for getting past this virus and getting back to normal life. I’m looking forward to getting mine, and I hope you are too.”
The vaccination tool is really an extension of Facebook’s existing COVID-19 information center, which the company first added to its News Feed nearly a year ago. The tool was created in conjunction with Boston Children’s Hospital, and appointment times through the United States are provided by VaccineFinder.
Facebook’s info hubs have proven to be an incredibly useful method of directing users to resources and fact-checked information; expanding that campaign with vaccination information should prove helpful, too. Now if only Zuck could get a handle on Facebook’s otherwise rampant misinformation problem.
Significant expansion — We have to give Facebook some credit here: the company has continued to tweak and expand its COVID-19 hub as the pandemic has progressed. Today’s updates continue that trend.
Up-to-date vaccine information can be difficult to come by, especially on a local level; Facebook is making that info much more accessible. WhatsApp chatbots will now have the ability to help users register for vaccinations with health authorities as well. Furthermore, Facebook says it will be creating real-time aggregate trends in vaccinations, intent to get vaccinated, and reasons for hesitancy for use by public officials.
Facebook’s latest pandemic update also includes bringing its COVID-19 Information Center to Instagram, where it will be displayed prominently for all users. Labels are now being added to posts about COVID-19 vaccines across Facebook brands as well.
But still… — There’s no doubt that Facebook’s info hubs are effective. More than 2 billion people have visited the platform’s COVID-19 information hub, according to Facebook, and its 2020 presidential election hub was similarly popular.
Information hubs are good, but alone they are not nearly enough to solve Facebook’s deep-rooted misinformation issues. For years now, Facebook’s lax moderation and inability to govern itself has led to a culture that allows and even cultivates conspiracy and hate. Many of Facebook’s policy issues can be summed up in four words: too little too late. Vaccine misinformation has thrived on Facebook for a very long time, but it wasn’t until last month — nearly a year into the pandemic — that the company took an actual stand against it. And don’t even get us started on how Facebook promoted Holocaust denial via its algorithms.
So yes, thank you, Zuckerberg, for helping people find credible information about vaccines. Now can we take care of the rest of the misinformation, too?