Covid-19: Labour calls for law to stop anti-vaccination fake news online

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

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Labour is calling on the government to bring in emergency laws to "stamp out dangerous" anti-vaccine content online.

In a letter, Labour said there should be financial and criminal penalties for social media firms that do not remove anti-vaccine fake news.

It comes after this week's news that the world's first effective Covid vaccine – made by Pfizer and BioNTech – had seen positive early results.

The government said it took the issue "extremely seriously".

It said it had "secured a major commitment" from social media companies Facebook, Twitter and Google to tackle anti-vaccine content.

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Suspicion of vaccines has been around almost as long as modern vaccines themselves.

But in recent years, the anti-vaccination – or "anti-vax"- movement has gained traction online. Social media has been blamed for allowing unfounded claims about vaccines to spread more easily.

In 2019, the UK lost its measles-free status designated by the World Health Organization – and there has been a marked decline in vaccination rates for all 13 diseases covered in jabs for children.

Since the pandemic, anti-vaccination campaigners have moved their focus to the coronavirus.