COVID-19 and Vaccine Policy Updates and Protections
As people around the world confront this unprecedented public health emergency, we want to make sure that our policies help to protect people from harmful content and new types of abuse related to COVID-19 and vaccines.
We’re working to remove COVID-19 content that contributes to the risk of real-world harm, including through our policies prohibiting coordination of harm, sale of test kits and related goods, hate speech, bullying and harassment, and misinformation that contributes to the risk of imminent violence or physical harm. Some of these policies require additional information and/or context to enforce, the details of which we’ve outlined below.
Based on input from experts in health communication and related fields, we are also taking additional steps amid the pandemic to reduce the distribution of content that does not violate our policies but may present misleading or sensationalized information about vaccines in a way that would be likely to discourage vaccinations, as outlined in more detail below..
As the situation evolves, we continue to look at content on the platform, assess speech trends, and engage with experts like the World Health Organization (WHO), government health authorities, and stakeholders from across the spectrum of people who use our service, and we will provide additional policy guidance when appropriate to keep the members of our community safe during this crisis.
Under Instagram's Community Guidelines and our Coordinating Harm policy, we prohibit content that:
  • Coordinates, depicts, admits to, or promotes the active and deliberate spread of communicable diseases by you or your associates.
When we have additional information and/or context to identify it, we also prohibit:
  • Content coordinating in-person events or gatherings when participation involves or encourages people who have COVID-19 to join.
  • Content coordinating interference with the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Content calling to action, advocating, or promoting that others not get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Under our Regulated Goods policy, we’ve taken steps to protect against exploitation of this crisis for financial gain and prohibit the below content when we have additional information and/or context to identify it:
  • Attempts to sell COVID-19 test kits. This policy does not extend to offers or requests for mask donations or non-medical masks.
  • Makes mention of medical products and COVID-19 and indicates a sense of urgency or claims that prevention is guaranteed.
Under our Hate Speech policy, we prohibit the below content when we have additional information and/or context to identify it:
  • States that people who share a protected characteristic such as race or religion have the virus, created the virus or are spreading the virus. This does not apply to claims about people based on national origin because we want to allow discussion focused on national-level responses and effects (e.g., “X number of Italians have COVID-19”).
  • Mocks people who share a protected characteristic such as race or religion for having COVID-19.
Under our Bullying and Harassment policy, we prohibit the below content that targets people maliciously when we have additional information and/or context to identify it:
  • Claims that a private individual has COVID-19, unless that person has self-declared or information about their health status is publicly available.
Under our Community Guidelines, we remove misinformation when public health authorities conclude that the information is false and likely to contribute to imminent violence or physical harm. Since COVID-19 was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in January 2020, we have applied this policy to content containing claims related to COVID-19 that, according to public health authorities, are (a) false, and (b) likely to contribute to imminent physical harm (examples of imminent physical harm include: increasing the likelihood of exposure to or transmission of the virus or having adverse effects on the public health system’s ability to cope with the pandemic). The goal of this policy is to reduce health harm to people, while also allowing people to discuss, debate, and share their personal experiences, opinions, and news related to the COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, we remove false information about:
  • The existence or severity of COVID-19: Acknowledging the existence and understanding the severity of COVID-19 is foundational to keeping people safe and aware of the dangers of this public health emergency. We remove claims that deny the existence of the disease or undermine the severity of COVID-19. This includes:
    • Claims that deny the existence of the COVID-19 disease or pandemic
    • Claims that downplay the severity of COVID-19, such as:
      • Claims that COVID-19 is no more dangerous to people than the common flu or cold
      • Claims that no one has died from COVID-19
      • Claims that the mortality rate of COVID-19 is the same or lower than seasonal influenza
      • Claims that getting a flu shot or flu vaccine is more likely to kill you than COVID-19
      • Claims that the number of COVID-19 caused deaths are much lower than the official figure (requires additional information and/or context)
    • Claims about the cause of COVID-19 that are linked to 5G communication technologies, such as:
      • Claims that COVID-19 social distancing orders are really just a way to install 5G wireless communication technology infrastructure
      • Claims that the symptoms of COVID-19 are actually the effect of 5G communication technologies
    • Ex: “No one has died from COVID-19,” “Social distancing orders are really just a way to install 5G infrastructure,” “COVID-19 is not real!”
  • COVID-19 transmission and immunity: Understanding how COVID-19 is transmitted and who can be infected is a critical component of protecting people from getting or spreading the virus. Public health authorities state that COVID-19 can be transmitted in any location and primarily from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are expelled when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or speaks. Public health authorities also agree that all people, regardless of age or other unique characteristics, can be infected with and spread COVID-19. We remove false claims about how and where COVID-19 can be transmitted and who can be infected. This includes:
    • Claims that any group is immune or cannot die from COVID-19 or that a specific activity or treatment results in immunity
    • Claims that COVID-19 cannot be transmitted through the air, in certain climates, weather conditions, or locations
    • Claims that COVID-19 can be transmitted from anything other than human-to-human transmission, such as:
      • Claims that COVID-19 is the cause of or transmitted by 5G technologies or that face masks contain harmful nano worms or harmful particles
      • Claims that COVID-19 is transmitted by the flu shot or flu vaccine, or that getting the flu vaccine or shot makes people more susceptible/likely to get COVID-19
      • Claims that COVID-19 is transmitted by house flies or mosquitoes
      • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines are the cause of or infect people with COVID-19
    • Ex: “Elderly people are immune from COVID-19,” “COVID-19 cannot be transmitted in tropical climates,” “the COVID-19 vaccine causes COVID-19!”
  • Guaranteed cures or prevention methods for COVID-19: Public health authorities, such as the WHO, say there is currently nothing that can guarantee recovery or guarantee the average person will not get COVID-19. We have also heard from public health authorities that if people thought there was a guaranteed cure or prevention for COVID-19, that could lead them to take incorrect safety measures, ignore appropriate health guidance, or even attempt harmful self-medication. This is why we don’t allow false claims about how to cure or prevent COVID-19. This includes:
    • Claims that for the average person, something can guarantee prevention from getting COVID-19 or can guarantee recovery from COVID-19 before such a cure or prevention has been approved, including:
      • Consuming or inhaling specific items
      • Medical or herbal remedies
      • External remedies for the outer body or skin
    • Ex: “Take Vitamin C - it cures COVID-19,” “If you take this herbal remedy, you will not get COVID-19,” “This topical cream will prevent you from contracting coronavirus.”
  • Discouraging good health practices: there are a number of good health practices public health authorities advise people take to protect themselves from getting or spreading COVID-19. This includes wearing a face mask, social distancing, getting tested for COVID-19 and, more recently, getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Public health authorities have issued emergency use authorization for several COVID-19 vaccines, so in addition to false claims about face masks, social distancing and testing, we do not allow false claims about the vaccines or vaccination programs which public health experts have advised us could lead to COVID-19 vaccine rejection. This includes false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients, development, existence, or conspiracies related to the vaccine or vaccination program. As more information becomes available about COVID-19 vaccines, we will continue to iterate on how we apply this policy. This includes:
    • Claims about wearing a face mask, including:
      • Claims that wearing a face mask does not help prevent the spread of COVID-19
      • Claims that face masks include or are connected to 5G technology
      • Claims that wearing a face mask can make the wearer sick
      • Claims that health authorities do not recommend that healthy people wear masks where this is not the current public health guidance (requires additional information and/or context).
    • Claims that social/physical distancing does not help prevent the spread of COVID-19
    • Claims that can discourage someone from getting a government approved COVID-19 test, including:
      • Claims that COVID-19 can be successfully tested without an approved test
      • Claims that COVID-19 tests actually come pre-infected or can infect you with COVID-19
      • Claims that COVID-19 tests approved by public health authorities cannot detect COVID-19
      • Claims that COVID-19 tests cause cancer
      • Claims that COVID-19 tests contain harmful nano-particles or nano-worms
      • Claims that COVID-19 tests are being used to harvest people’s DNA
    • Claims about COVID-19 vaccines that contribute to vaccine rejection, including:
      • Claims about the availability or existence of COVID-19 vaccines, specifically:
        • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines do not exist or have not been approved
        • Claims that there are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved COVID-19 vaccines or that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has not received full FDA approval
        • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines are not approved by the FDA if that content also suggests the vaccines are unsafe, ineffective, experimental, or have not been appropriately tested. Otherwise, we will allow claims that the FDA has not approved the vaccine, or make a clear distinction between a full FDA approval and an Emergency Use Authorization with appropriate context such as distinguishing between different types of COVID vaccines.
        • Claims that something other than a COVID-19 vaccine can vaccinate you against COVID-19
        • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines are experimental, if the context of the claim also suggests that vaccinated people are taking part in a medical experiment.
      • Claims about the safety or serious side effects of COVID-19 vaccines, including:
        • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines kill or seriously harm people which we define as leading to any of the following harmful side effects:
          • Death
          • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
          • Multiple sclerosis
          • COVID-19 or a new COVID-19 strain
          • Autism
          • Miscarriages
          • Infertility or sterilization
          • Birth defects
          • Shedding
          • Altering DNA
          • Blood clots (except in relation to specific vaccines for which public health authorities have found possible links or are officially investigating such reports)
          • Alzheimer’s
          • Prion's disease
          • Bell’s palsy
          • Erectile dysfunctions
          • Magnetism
          • Other side-effects which are incredulous or irrational, such as taking the vaccine turns you into a monkey
        • Claims that the spike proteins created by the COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous / cytotoxic.
        • Claims that building immunity by getting COVID-19 is safer than getting the vaccine
        • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe generally, or for a specific group of people, if that group is identified based on protected characteristics or other identifiers not directly related to their personal health, age, or disabilities (e.g. social status, religion, or political views), or that vaccines are unsafe for menstruating women.
        • Claims that being near vaccinated people causes adverse effects on unvaccinated people )
      • Claims about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, including:
        • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines do not provide any immunity to people
        • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines are not effective in preventing COVID-19
      • Claims about how the COVID-19 vaccine was developed or its ingredients, including:
        • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain toxic, prohibited, or harmful ingredients, microchips, animal products, or anything not on the vaccine ingredient list
        • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines are untested
        • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain the mark of the beast
        • Claims that people died as a result of the COVID-19 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine during clinical trials (Note - We allow claims that people died during the COVID-19 Pfizer/BioNTech clinical trials)
        • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain, or were developed, produced or designed from/with human tissue from aborted fetuses / aborted fetal tissue.
      • Claims involving conspiracy theories about a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccination program, including:
        • Claims that COVID-19 vaccines are designed to or were developed in order to control a population for non-public health purposes
        • Claims that specific populations are being used or targeted in order to test the true safety or efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine
      • Examples of claims that violate the above-listed policies include: “Wearing a face mask doesn’t help prevent the spread of COVID,” “Social distancing does nothing to reduce COVID in the community,” “COVID tests come pre-infected with the disease,” “the COVID vaccine will kill you,” “the COVID vaccine contains a microchip,” “the COVID vaccine provides no immunity,” “the COVID vaccine causes autism!”
    • Access to essential health services: Public health infrastructure is at the core of the global fight to combat COVID-19. According to the WHO and other public health authorities, previous outbreaks of infectious diseases have shown that disruption to essential services can be more deadly than the outbreak itself, and ensuring access to essential services is the cornerstone of an effective health response. Adverse effects on the public health system’s ability to cope with the pandemic can have a direct impact on helping people stay healthy and safe in this health emergency. We remove content that can contribute to physical harm by inaccurately representing the access to or availability of public health infrastructure. When we have additional information and/or context to identify it, we also prohibit:
      • Claims that misrepresent the access, availability, or eligibility of health services, such as hospitals, emergency responders, ambulance response, treatments, vaccines.
        • Claims that hospitals or a specific hospital is closed and will not permit infected people.
        • Claims that only certain people are allowed to receive medical care for COVID-19.
        • Claims that hospitals kill patients in order to inflate the number of COVID-19 deaths, to get more money, or in order to sell people’s organs
          • Ex: “Hospitals kill patients to increase their COVID numbers and get more money!”
Similarly, for the duration of the COVID public health emergency, we remove content that repeats other false health information, primarily about vaccines, that are widely debunked by leading health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The goal of this policy is to combat misinformation about vaccinations and diseases, which if believed could result in reduced vaccinations and harm public health and safety. The claims we have applied this to include:
  • Vaccines cause autism
    • Ex: “Increased vaccinations are why so many kids have autism these days.”
  • Vaccines cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
    • Ex: “Don’t you know vaccines cause SIDS?”
  • Vaccines cause the disease against which they are meant to protect, or cause the person to be more likely to get the disease
    • Ex: “Taking a vaccine actually makes you more likely to get the disease since there’s a strain of the disease inside. Beware!”
  • Vaccines or their ingredients are deadly, toxic, poisonous, harmful, or dangerous
    • Ex: “Sure, you can take vaccines, if you don’t mind putting poison in your body.”
  • Natural immunity is safer than vaccine acquired immunity
    • Ex: “It’s safest to just get the disease rather than the vaccine.”
  • It is dangerous to get several vaccines in a short period of time, even if that timing is medically recommended
    • Ex: “Never take more than one vaccine at the same time, that is dangerous - I don’t care what your doctor tells you!”
  • Vaccines are not effective to prevent the disease against which they purport to protect
    • Ex: “Vaccines actually don’t do anything to stop you from getting the disease.”
  • Acquiring measles cannot cause death (requires additional information and/or context)
    • Ex: “Don’t worry about whether you get measles, it can’t be fatal”
  • Vitamin C is as effective as vaccines in preventing diseases for which vaccines exist.
Instagram accounts that repeatedly post misinformation or coordinate harm (see Coordinating Harm policies at the top of this entry) related to COVID-19, vaccines, and health may face restrictions, including (but not limited to) reduced distribution, removal from recommendations, or removal from our site.


Common questions on how we enforce on COVID-19 and health-related misinformation
A. How do we treat humor or satire?
We allow content that is shared with explicit humor or satire. Humor and satire are vital forms of expression - allowing us to convey challenging ideas, build community, and cope in these hard times.
B. How do we enforce on content shared to condemn or debunk?
We allow content shared to condemn or debunk.
C. How do we enforce on personal experiences or anecdotes?
We will generally allow claims that are expressing a personal anecdote or experience -- in service of our value of giving people voice -- unless they promote or advocate harmful action around that claim.
D. What options do we provide users who disagree with our decision?
You can find more information on how to dispute decisions we made to remove content. (Content that was directly rated by our fact-checking partners can be appealed directly to them. See more information on our fact-checking program.)
E. How does Instagram find COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation?
We use a combination of human review, technology, and user reports to find and enforce on content that violates these policies, and we encourage people to report content when they see it.
F. How does Instagram enforce on posts that link to off-platform violating content?
In special circumstances, we will also remove content containing links to off-platform content when we're made aware that our services are being abused to evade enforcement or drive traffic to off-platform information that violates our COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation rules.
  • Ex: A user posts a website with violating content that is encouraging users to post on Instagram in ways that might evade our enforcement.
  • Ex: A user posts a website promoting a product that includes violating content in its description, such as a health product falsely claiming to treat toxic chemicals from COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Ex: A user posts a website with violating content from an entity previously removed from Instagram for repeatedly violating our COVID-19 and Vaccine misinformation policies.
  • Ex: A user posts a website that is coordinating an event or action using a sign-up form with violating content
As with our other COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation policies, Instagram accounts that post this content may incur penalties, such as reduced distribution or removal.
G. How do we enforce on entities that use code words to attempt to evade detection?
When we become aware of it, we will remove any Pages, Groups, Events or Instagram Accounts that: (1) have violated any of our rules on COVID-19 and vaccines; and that (2) instruct or encourage users to employ code words when discussing vaccines or COVID-19 to evade our detection.


Reducing the Distribution of Certain Other Vaccine Content and Removing Pages, Groups, and Instagram Accounts that Violate our COVID-19 and Vaccine Policies and are Dedicated to Discouraging Vaccination
As part of our efforts to improve the quality of health and vaccine content that people encounter during the COVID-19 pandemic, and consistent with the advice of independent health experts, we are also taking additional steps to reduce the distribution of certain other content about vaccines that does not otherwise violate our policies listed above, and remove certain Pages, Groups, and Instagram accounts that have shared content that violates our COVID-19 and vaccine policies and are dedicated to spreading vaccine discouraging information on platform.
Specifically, we are taking additional steps to limit visibility of this content on our recommendations surfaces (learn more here).This includes content, described below, that is sensationalist or alarmist about vaccines, or which disparages people on the basis of their vaccine choices, as well as content that promotes vaccine refusals or alternatives, or shares stories about adverse events or side effects after vaccination that are presented in a shocking or hyperbolic way so as to discourage vaccinations. We may also reduce the distribution of Pages, Groups, and Instagram accounts that are focused on discouraging vaccinations by spreading these types of content.
Instagram accounts may be removed if they have shared content that violates our COVID-19 and vaccine policies and are also dedicated to sharing other vaccine discouraging information on the platform.
  • Sensational or Alarmist Vaccine Content:
    • Content that otherwise does not violate our COVID-19 or vaccine policies above but that suggests that vaccines are ineffective, sacrilegious, unsafe, or irrelevant, in exaggerated, conspiratorial, or sensational terms. This includes content that makes generalizations about vaccine harms or utility in hyperbolic terms or without providing context, or which connects vaccination to a conspiratorial narrative about a purposely hidden widespread health harm, secret, or truth.
      • Ex: “They’re coming with these Devil shots for you next -- the sheep of the world need to wake up.”
      • Ex: “Just wait until you see the real effects of these horrendous shots!”
  • Criticizing the Choice to Receive/Provide Vaccines:
    • Content that otherwise does not violate our COVID-19 or vaccine policies above but that disparages others on the basis of their choice to vaccinate, or on their choice to vaccinate others, including attacking language used towards vaccinated people or those administering vaccinations, or blaming people for misfortune after vaccination.
      • Ex: “You’re committing child abuse for giving this vaccine.”
      • Ex: “Only someone clinically insane would get this vaccine!”
  • Promoting Vaccine Refusals and Alternatives:
    • Content that otherwise does not violate our COVID-19 or vaccine policies above but that implicitly discourages vaccination by advocating for alternatives or celebrating those who refuse vaccination. This includes promoting alternative treatments or natural immunity, celebrating those who refuse vaccination, and encouraging vaccine refusals without citing medical rationales or guidance.
      • Ex: “These nurses who are taking a stand and refusing this worthless vaccine are my heroes!”
        • Ex: “Sarah, please whatever you do, don’t let them jab you.”
        • Ex: “What’s the point of signing up for an experimental vaccine when there are such great treatments around?”
  • Shocking Stories:
    • Content that otherwise does not violate our COVID-19 or vaccine policies above but that shares potentially or actually true events or facts that raise safety concerns, indicated by sharing personal anecdotes or news events of severe adverse events, either in hyperbolic terms or without context.
      • Ex: “My friend got the vaccine and now has Bell’s Palsy, be warned!”
      • Ex: “Uncovered: See the 632 reports made of people who died within a week of getting the new COVID-19 vaccine”
Other Ways Instagram is Fighting COVID-19 Misinformation
During the COVID public health emergency, we are also working to slow the spread of some common COVID-19 related hoaxes that do not violate our policies above. To do this, we’re reducing distribution and applying warning labels to posts we identify as repeating certain claims that multiple third-party fact-checkers have already rated. This is in addition to our ongoing work to use technology to label and reduce the spread of near-identical versions of content that fact checkers rate. These efforts will help supplement the existing work already being done by fact-checkers, enabling them to focus on catching new instances of misinformation rather than variations of content they’ve already seen. The claims we apply this to include:
  • COVID-19 is or has been patented, including by any specific person or entity
    • Ex: “Did you know COVID-19 was actually patented many years ago?”
  • COVID-19 was predicted, including
    • in “Event 201”’s pandemic exercise in October 2019
    • in “Event 201”’s pandemic simulation in October 2019
    • Excluding:
      • Discussing the October 2019 exercise/simulation without explicitly claiming it predicted the new coronavirus outbreak
      • Claims about other possible predictions
    • Ex: “In October 2019, the Event 201 pandemic exercise predicted the COVID-19 pandemic would happen.”
  • COVID-19 is not new, including
    • As proven by the existence of animal vaccines for coronavirus
    • As proven by disinfectant product labels
    • Ex: “Don’t believe that COVID-19 is anything new. There have been animal vaccines for coronavirus for years.”
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