Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageCall on Facebook to remove anti-vaccine information

By Tim Sandle     Feb 17, 2019 in Health
Messages, much of it wrapped up in a jacket of pseudo-science, calling on parents not to vaccinate their children have been appearing at a high-frequency on Facebook. Signs are that Facebook will take action to remove this type of fake news.
According to a report in Bloomberg, Facebook is "exploring additional measures" to fight anti-vaccine disinformation. This follows a hike in content, some of it proportioning to be news and much of it having no scientific basis, aimed at discouraging parents from vaccinating their children. The indication that Facebook may take action has arisen following a letter sent by U.S. Representative Adam Schiff to Facebook, as well as Google, seeking the issue to be redressed.
In his letter, Schiff writes that Facebook is displaying messages that could well pose a threat to public health, in relation to accepting and promoting ads from anti-vax groups. In relation to this, Schiff writes: "Repetition of information, even if false, can often be mistaken for accuracy. The algorithms which power these services are not designed to distinguish quality information from misinformation."
In response, Facebook has, according to Engadget, indicated that it is "exploring additional measures to best combat the problem." This response includes "reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations, including 'Groups You Should Join,' and demoting it in search results, while also ensuring that higher quality and more authoritative information is available."
The rise of anti-vaccination material on social media has been connected to the serious increase in cases of measles in the U.S., including Washington state where a state of emergency has been declared (as the case count hit 36 in relation to the highly contagious infectious disease). Measles can kill or cause permanent disability. One in every thousand children affected develops encephalitis, which refers to the swelling of the brain and this can lead to deafness or learning difficulties.
Globally, as the World Health Organization notes, "gaps in vaccination coverage, measles outbreaks occurred in all regions, while there were an estimated 110 000 deaths related to the disease," indicating the adverse impact that anti-vaccination misinformation is having on just one area of global health.
Mistrust of vaccines has been fueled in recent years via social media, particularly from right-wing populist leaders, together with a societal shift towards a suspicion of experts. Many of the anti-immunization posts have been shown to have arisen from Russia, according to scientists from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, who surveyed nearly 900 vaccine-related tweets posted between 2014 and 2017. This appear to have the intention of causing disruption to the healthcare system in the U.S. (see the American Journal of Public Health "Weaponized Health Communication: Twitter Bots and Russian Trolls Amplify the Vaccine Debate").
More about Vaccine, antivaccine, Disease, Measles
More news from
Latest News
Top News