BBC director-general Tim Davie has warned of the “human cost” of disinformation amid conspiracy theories about coronavirus vaccines.
His comments follow a rise in false claims about the vaccines posted on social media platforms.
Davie said: “2020 has been a year like no other. We have seen the rapid spread of harmful disinformation and a growing number of conspiracy theories online.
“Whether it’s a threat to our health or a threat to our democracy, there is a human cost to disinformation.”
His comments came after media and technology giants pledged to work together to tackle harmful coronavirus disinformation.
The Trusted News Initiative, which includes the BBC, Facebook, Google and Twitter, will work to “ensure legitimate concerns about future vaccinations are heard whilst harmful disinformation myths are stopped in their tracks”, Davie said.
The BBC World Service Group will fund research on how to combat misinformation.
Its director Jamie Angus said: “The vital role of providing trusted and independent news about public health has helped to save lives during the pandemic.
“The BBC’s disinformation and health teams are already leading the way in countering dangerous disinformation which puts public health at risk – and this will remain paramount as vaccinations are rolled out globally.”
Facebook recently announced it is to start removing from the platform false claims about coronavirus vaccines.
The social media site will remove disinformation – including claims vaccines contain microchips or anything else not on the official ingredient list – but warned it will “not be able to start enforcing these policies overnight”.
The BBC has also commissioned a joint feature documentary with CNN Films charting the development, trial, manufacture and distribution of the coronavirus vaccines.
Vaccine: The Inside Story will include access to the research teams working on the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines.
The film will be produced and directed by British filmmaker and former virologist Catherine Gale and will air on BBC Two in the UK.