Facebook Clamping Down On Vaccine Misinformation
Less than a week after a major study further refuted any connection between autism and vaccines, Facebook says it will crack down on the proliferation of vaccine misinformation on its platform.
The social network said late last week that it will reduce the ranking of groups and pages that spread false or misleading information about vaccines in its news feed and search and it will remove such pages from search recommendations and predictions.
The company also indicated that it will reject advertisements that fall within this realm and eliminate advertisers’ access to targeting options like “vaccine controversies.”
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“Leading global health organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have publicly identified verifiable vaccine hoaxes. If these vaccine hoaxes appear on Facebook, we will take action against them,” said Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, in a statement about the changes.
Aside from addressing misinformation, Facebook indicated that it is looking at ways to educate users about vaccines.
“We also believe in providing people with additional context so they can decide whether to read, share or engage in conversations about information they see on Facebook,” Bickert said. “We are exploring ways to give people more accurate information from expert organizations about vaccines at the top of results for related searches, on pages discussing the topic and on invitations to join groups about the topic.”
The new policy will extend to Instagram Explore and hashtag pages, Facebook said.
The social network’s announcement comes at a time when numerous measles cases have popped up across the country. The CDC has identified outbreaks of the highly contagious disease in New York, Texas, Illinois and Washington state this year alone. Most people who have gotten measles were not vaccinated, the agency said.
In response, a U.S. Senate committee took up the issue of under-vaccination earlier this month and the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote to Facebook, Google and Pinterest asking them to do more to prevent the spread of vaccine inaccuracies on their platforms.
Worries about a link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine largely emerged out of a 1998 study that was retracted in 2010.
Last week, researchers published one of the largest studies ever looking at autism and the MMR vaccine. They tracked more than 650,000 kids for a decade and found that children who received the immunization were no more likely to develop autism than those who did not. In addition, the researchers said there was no evidence to suggest that the vaccination triggered autism in high-risk kids or that there was any clustering of autism after shots were given.