Amid the measles outbreak, Facebook announced that they're going to start cracking down on anti-vaccine information on the social media platform. On Thursday, March 7th, 2019, Facebook released a statement that they are trying to reduce the sharing of misleading medical advice by relying on vetting from leading global health organizations that "have publicly identified verifiable vaccine hoaxes."
Vice President of Global Policy Management, Monika Bickert, said in a statement that the company's goal is to provide online users with accurate and authoritative information. "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," Bickert said.
Aside from that, Facebook will also monitor ads and reject and remove the ones that include false facts about vaccines. If a user or company continues to submit ads with misleading information about vaccines, their entire ad account will be disabled. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, will also monitor posts and remove those that don't abide by these regulations.
These new regulations were established just after the hearing on Tuesday which discussed how to stop the outbreak of preventable diseases. This was the hearing in which 18-year-old, Ethan Lindenberger, spoke about how he chose to be vaccinated against the wishes of his anti-vaxxer mother. One statement that he made which got a lot of attention was that his mother actually developed her anti-vaccine beliefs through her involvement with many Facebook groups. "For certain individuals and organizations that spread this misinformation, they instill fear into the public for their own gain selfishly, and do so knowing that their information is incorrect," Ethan Lindenberger said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif also said that Facebook is to blame for not trying to remove or filter these inaccurate facts sooner. In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Adam Schiff said that Facebook and Instagram are "surfacing and recommending messages that discouraging kids vaccination". He also said that it was a direct threat to public health that reverses medical progress.
Even though there are many studies that provide evidence that the MMR vaccine is safe, effective, and does not increase the risk of autism, many groups continue to lobby against mandatory vaccination. These groups are able to grow and gain significant traction on social media. Facebook has a responsibility to limit the spread of this misinformation. They will now be partnering with major health organizations, including the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create factually accurate content.
Public health officials are still trying to contain the measles outbreak in Clark County, where seventy total cases have been reported. Sixty-six of those cases were found in people 18 years and younger, most of which was because they hadn't been vaccinated, according to The Seattle Times.
Other companies are also taking it upon themselves to limit the misinformation hosted on their websites. Amazon removed books promoting autism cures and vaccine misinformation because of the recent increased scrutiny. Two of the books that were removed include "Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism" and "Fight Autism and Win". We don't yet know if this is the start to a major cleanup by the company. Amazon hasn't officially released any more details as to why these books were removed or what their plans are next.