Facebook cracks down on vaccine misinformation

By Tauren Dyson
Facebook cracks down on vaccine misinformation
The social media giant has announced it will lower the ranking of anti-vaxxing groups and pages, which pass around misinformation on its feeds and searches about vaccinations. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 7 (UPI) -- After receiving criticism for not combating the spread of health misinformation on its platform, Facebook on Thursday released a statement on how it will crack down on the problem.

The social media giant said it will lower the ranking of so-called anti-vaxxing groups and pages, which pass around misinformation on their feeds and searches about vaccinations. Facebook says it will no longer include them in recommendations or text predictions when users type in the Facebook search bar.


"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," Monika Bickert, vice president of Global Policy Management at Facebook, said in a news release.

Facebook said it plans to reject ads that misinform users about vaccinations and remove related targeting options for terms such as "vaccine controversies." And ad accounts that repeatedly violate Facebook policies risk being disabled.

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The company says it also won't allow misinformation to be shown or recommended on Instagram, which Facebook owns.

This comes after several social media companies, including Facebook, announced earlier this month they will work to fight the flow of misleading information and debunk myths about various vaccines normally used to immunize children.


Over nearly two decades, various social media sites have played host to users and groups who push beliefs that certain childhood vaccines cause autism.

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Facebook groups such as "Stop Mandatory Vaccinations" push anti-vaccine messages by sharing videos from parents and doctors.

Around the globe, multiple countries have seen an uptick in measles, a trend many global health officials attribute to a rise in parents who embrace anti-vaxxing messages.

The World Health Organization says it has seen a "vaccine hesitancy" that has led to a 30 percent global increase in measles.

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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," Bickert said.

Not only will the platform work to eliminate anti-vaxxing messages on its platform, it will share correct information about the vaccine in question.

"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. We will have an update on this soon," Bickert said.


A study released earlier this month -- one of the largest in history -- determined the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella does not cause autism.

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