Here's What Facebook Is Doing to Prevent the Spread of Vaccine Misinformation

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In its announcement of its new stance toward vaccine misinformation, Facebook said it is working with prominent global health organizations like the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have identified vaccine hoaxes that have been publicly proven as false.

The company said it would reduce the ranking of groups and pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations in its News Feed and Search features and would also reject ads spreading such information.

Renee DiResta, who researches computational propaganda at the analysis firm New Knowledge and has closely followed the spread of deceptive health information since she started a pro-vaccine Facebook page in 2015, endorsed the company's move on Twitter.

The the organisation finds ads that include misinformation about vaccinations, they will be rejected, along with related targeting options, like "vaccine controversies". Additionally, it will also curb vaccine misinformation from Facebook-owned Instagram. If ad accounts continue to spread misinformation, Facebook said it will disable the account. Diseases long thought extinct have been reintroduced to fatal effect thanks to these merchants of disease.

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Furthermore, the company is exploring ways of giving Facebook users more accurate information from health experts and organizations.

Facebook had been increasingly criticised in recent times for providing a platform for anti-vaccine content. Congressman Adam Schiff had led the charge, writing a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to forcefully suggest both Instagram and Facebook crack down on misinformation around vaccines."Repetition of information, even if false, can often be mistaken for accuracy", he wrote.

While local doctors anecdotally report a surge of people getting MMR boosters or vaccinations as a result, there's also been a backlash from vaccine sceptics on social media, as CTV reported last month. For instance, Facebook made no mention of deleting pages or groups that carry the anti-vaccination content. Anti-vax posts and pages, however, will remain live.

Facebook will now de-prioritize medical myths across the platform, taking action against verifiable vaccine hoaxes, the company said. While overall vaccination rates remain high in the US according to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of kids under two who haven't received any vaccines is growing.

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