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Facebook steps up effort to rid site of vaccine misinformation

09 March 2019

Facebook today announced that the company is taking a range of different steps to crack down on vaccine-related misinformation on its platforms.

"If a group or Page admin posts this vaccine misinformation, we will exclude the entire group or Page from recommendations, reduce these groups and Pages' distribution in News Feed and Search, and reject ads with this misinformation".

The the organisation finds ads that include misinformation about vaccinations, they will be rejected, along with related targeting options, like "vaccine controversies".

Last month, The Daily Beast found almost 150 anti-vaccine advertising spots on Facebook that specifically target women over the age of 25, which is the demographic most likely to have children needing vaccinations.

In addition, vaccine misinformation on Instagram will no longer be shown or recommended on hashtag pages or Instagram Explore.

As well as clamping down on this misinformation, Facebook is exploring ways to share educational data on vaccines when people come across anti-vaxxer content. These groups and pages will be automatically removed from recommendations and search predictions as a result.

It's also notable that Facebook is now embroiled in a public relations nightmare, with mounting criticism about its privacy protection for users as well as a perceived lack of action against alleged hate groups and Russian propaganda campaigns. Facebook is partnering with World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others to identify a verifiable vaccine hoax and take them down.

Art Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University School of Medicine, has said he would welcome changes but said it may be necessary for Facebook to pull "scurrilous and erroneous sites down completely". Earlier this week, a teenager from OH who had to inoculate himself testified before the Senate that his anti-vax mother received her information on vaccines exclusively through Facebook.

This is part of Facebook's expanded effort to boost, primarily, election security, and ensure political groups are not working to manipulate voters through Facebook. Anti-vax posts and pages, however, will remain live.

Last year, the UK's Advertising Standards Authority banned a Facebook ad paid for by a US-based anti-vaccination campaign group.

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.

Facebook steps up effort to rid site of vaccine misinformation