Facebook takes action against misinformation about vaccines

Company will not remove incorrect content, but will make it harder to find

 

Facebook has announced its first policy to combat misinformation about vaccines, following in the footsteps of Pinterest and YouTube.

The social network is adopting an approach similar to the one it uses to tackle fake news – the company will not remove incorrect content, but it will aim to reduce the reach of that content by making it harder to find. “Leading global health organisations, such as the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have publicly identified verifiable vaccine hoaxes,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, said in a statement. “If these vaccine hoaxes appear on Facebook, we will take action against them.”

Anti-vaccination groups have flourished on Facebook, partly because of the site’s search results and “suggested groups” feature. The group Stop Mandatory Vaccination, for example, has nearly 159,000 members. Larry Cook, the founder, bragged on a recently deactivated GoFundMe page about an anti-vaccine Facebook video that he said was averaging over 100,000 views per day.

Under Facebook’s new policy, groups and pages that spread misinformation about vaccines will have lower rankings and won’t be included in recommendations or predictions when users are searching within Facebook, the company said. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, will have similar policies.

Facebook’s new rules come amid mumps and measles outbreaks in Ireland and abroad, and just days after yet another study demonstrated that the measles vaccine doesn’t cause autism.

Facebook said its artificial intelligence system would search for vaccine misinformation and flag posts and links that will then be reviewed by someone at the company. If the content is found to contain false claims about vaccines, then posts from the violating groups or pages will appear lower in a user’s news feed, the company said. But members of Facebook groups that promote anti-vaccination content will still see the posts on group pages.

The company is also aiming to crack down on advertising that includes misinformation about vaccinations. – New York Times