Anti-vaccination activists will have a more difficult time getting their message out on Facebook, the social media giant announced Thursday.
As reported by CBS, social media has been a major tool of those who are opposed to vaccinations against diseases. It has also been blamed for an increase in parents who do not vaccinate children, leading to eruptions of diseases for which vaccines exist.
“These outbreaks are due to the anti-vaccine movement,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, referring to measles outbreaks in New York and Washington state last month.
Facebook said it will “tackle vaccine misinformation on Facebook by reducing its distribution and providing people with authoritative information on the topic,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president for global policy management, said in a post.
“We will reduce the ranking of groups and Pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations in News Feed and Search,” she wrote, adding that Facebook will also reject ads “that include misinformation about vaccinations.”
“We won’t show or recommend content that contains misinformation about vaccinations on Instagram Explore or hashtag pages,” she wrote.
Facebook will also take unspecified action against vaccine hoaxes that have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, she wrote.
Facebook’s action follows a demand from Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California that Facebook and Google must do more to crack down on medical misinformation.
“The scientific and medical communities are in overwhelming consensus that vaccines are both effective and safe. There is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause life-threatening or disabling diseases, and the dissemination of unfounded and debunked theories about the dangers of vaccinations pose a great risk to public health. In fact, the World Health Organization listed vaccine hesitancy — the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines — as one of the top threats to global health in 2019,” Schiff wrote in a letter to Facebook, according to his website.
Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of Wired, told CBS that social media plays a major role because of its reach and its ability to sway individuals
“Social networks are based on emotion. So content that makes us feel emotional, whether it’s fear, whether it’s uncertainty, that spreads really quickly,” he said. “So as they say, a lie get(s) halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.”
Dr. Tara Narula said online information often sways patients more than their doctors.
“They go to ‘Dr. Google’ to get a second opinion. They go there because it’s easy, they’re not going to have any judgment, they don’t have to pay a co-pay and then they don’t have to make a time for an appointment,” she said. “The issue is that we see this being a very — being widespread, not just relating to vaccines but medications like statins, supplements that promote wellness, weight loss, cancer treatments that are alternative.”
Fauci said that personal opinions are one thing, but science is another.
“The overwhelming scientific evidence over many years and decades indicate(s) that the vaccine, particularly the measles vaccine is very safe,” he said.
Claims about health risks from vaccines are “based purely on fabrication,” he continued. “That’s been proven. There is no association whatsoever between the measles vaccine and autism.”
According to CBS, Fauci also said local governments need to use their power to ensure children are vaccinated.
“There’s a category called philosophical reasons not to get vaccinated and that particular category has been abused,” he said. “So I’m in favor of states or cities making regulations that require a more strict interpretation of the exemptions that one has to not get vaccinated.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.