How Facebook Plans to Crack Down on Anti-Vax Content
Next month, Facebook is rolling out a search tool to combat this kind of misinformation
When you search “vaccine” on Facebook, one of the first search results includes a group called “Vaccine Injury Stories,” where users share posts featuring common hoaxes that blame vaccinations for infant sickness and death.
With a quick search, more than 150 groups appear on Facebook — some with thousands of members — promoting misinformation about vaccines’ effects and acting as an echo chamber for pseudoscience. The social network pledged to crack down on these groups in March but has not announced any clear plans until now.
Next month, Facebook is rolling out a search tool to combat this kind of misinformation, the company told Cheddar, similar to what Twitter launched last week.
Once the tool is live, a search of “vaccines” or related terms on Facebook will link to a neutral medical institution, like the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and more medically-verified information about vaccines. Similar to what Facebook did with searches about buying opioids and white nationalism, the information will sit at the top of search results and present facts alongside misinformation, rather than banning or removing the content altogether.
Facebook is also working on informational tools with respect to how vaccine-hoax promoting groups operate, the company told Cheddar. The new mechanism will warn users when being invited to groups identified as dealing in misinformation and label these groups on their homepages as peddling vaccine hoaxes.
In March, Facebook said organizations like World Health Organization and the CDC have identified vaccine hoaxes that will help the company spotlight groups serving up misinformation. The social network has taken a different route than others at curbing vaccine misinformation.
In 2017, Pinterest banned the “promotion of false cures for terminal or chronic illnesses and anti-vaccination advice” and removed boards known for anti-vax theories. The platform also completely prevented “vaccine” searches from showing in search results.
According to a recent Facebook blog post, the company’s goal is to provide “people with additional context so they can decide whether to read, share, or engage in conversations about information they see on Facebook.”
It is unclear how effective Facebook’s informational approach will be and if the company is taking a hard enough line against misinformation groups. The real life consequences of pseudoscience surrounding vaccines are felt though, as the CDC reports 880 measles cases just this year.