Facebook launches offensive to combat misinformation on vaccines

Desiree Burns
March 9, 2019

Facebook's crackdown on anti-vaxxers won't just punish groups that spread the information, it will also make them harder to find.

Facebook says it will also reject ads that include deceptive or false vaccine information. These groups and pages will not be included in recommendations or in predictions when you type into search. We also removed related targeting options, like "vaccine controversies". If ad accounts continue to spread misinformation, Facebook said it will disable the account.

On Instagram, recommended content on vaccinations that could contain wrong information would not show up in the Explore tab and hashtag pages.

DFR, a small online forensics team of Washington-based Atlantic Council thinktank, has been working with Facebook to enhance the social network's investigations of foreign interference.

"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", Facebook's Monika Bicket said. It is said that her mother had developed anti-vaccine beliefs through her involvement with various Facebook groups.

The company has faced pressure in recent weeks to tackle the problem, amid outbreaks of measles around the United States attributed to growing numbers of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

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Facebook's biggest move this week was the announcement that the platform will attempt to build back the sense of privacy that was eroded by the house policy to harvest as much data as possible.

Last week the head of NHS England warned "vaccination deniers" were gaining traction on social media as part of a "fake news" movement. Facebook is attempting to reduce the number of people who see the content, she said, without censoring it outright. Anti-vax posts and pages, however, will remain live.

In January, a study by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) warned social media was a "breeding ground for misleading information and negative messaging around vaccination" and more action needed to be taken to challenge claims made against vaccines.

In a later statement, Schiff added that he's "pleased that all three companies are taking this issue seriously and acknowledged their responsibility to provide quality health information to their users".

Laughing, Lindenberger said, "Not Facebook".

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