Facebook removes anti-vaccine 'fake news' in Israel

Facebook removed anti-coronavirus vaccine posts in Israel, according to the country's Justice Ministry, which said on Sunday that, at its request, the social media website took down four groups that had disseminated texts, photographs and videos with what the government called "deliberately mendacious content designed to mislead about coronavirus vaccines."

The ministry said in a statement that such "fake news" included arguments that vaccines would be used to plant government tracking chips in recipients' bodies, to poison them and thus cull the population or to subject them to medical experimentation.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that four Hebrew-language groups had been taken down as part of the company's policy against "spreading misinformation regarding the vaccines."

Israeli officials say the country has enough vaccines on order by year's end to protect the most vulnerable 20% of the population and then lift some coronavirus restrictions, but they worry that turnout might be dampened if people get false information about the innoculations.

Israel began administering vaccines to medical staff on Sunday. At a medical center in Tel Aviv, dozens of doctors and nurses danced as they prepared to receive their injections.

Next in line are elderly Israelis or those in high-risk groups. The wider adult population is slated to get shots in early 2021.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday became the first person to be vaccinated in Israel. Opinion polls show some two-thirds of the public in Israel want to follow suit.