As measles outbreaks in the U.S., the Philippines, and Europe continue to spread, people are looking towards the anti-vaxxer movement. Already, the U.S. measles outbreaks have been confirmed as spreading among unvaccinated children. Now, after public outcry, Facebook has decided to help curb the spread of misinformation about vaccinations on their platform.
As the Pacific Standard states, the spread of misinformation regarding vaccine effects and safety on Facebook and other social media sites such as YouTube has actually helped the anti-vaxxer movement go viral. In response to that, a letter was sent to Mark Zuckerberg by Democrat member in the U.S. House of Representatives, Adam Schiff, imploring Zuckerberg to look at measures that ensure correct information regarding vaccines is distributed on his site.
“I am writing out of my concern that Facebook and Instagram are surfacing and recommending messages that discourage parents from vaccinating their children, a direct threat to public health, and reversing progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases,” Schiff wrote.
This letter was prompted after a series of investigations done by the Guardian uncovered how Facebook’s algorithms might actually be promoting misinformation regarding vaccines. The Guardian‘s investigation discovered that thanks to Facebook’s algorithms, when one searched for information on vaccination, the search results were overly populated by anti-vaccination information.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed the anti-vaccination movement as one of the biggest global threats this year. And, as the Guardian has pointed out, some of this threat is originating in social media sites whose algorithms can’t distinguish between legitimation medical information on the topic or misinformation promoted by the anti-vaxxer movement.
Earlier this month, I wrote about how search results on Facebook were dominated by anti-vaccine misinformation https://t.co/ncevdWmKKh
— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) February 18, 2019
Facebook has now responded to the call to action regarding misinformation on its platform.
According to TimesLIVE, Facebook is determined to explore “additional measures to combat the problem.” However, it is unclear when these measures will be implemented.
In addition, Facebook has stated that they endeavor to reduce and remove anti-vaxxer 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.”
This response by Facebook comes just days after new research came out of South Africa detailing how information regarding the anti-vaxxer movement has spread across social media.
Stellenbosch University’s Francois van Schalkwyk explored the topic for his Ph.D.
“They are using whatever mechanism they can that will amplify their messages,” he said before comparing the anti-vaxxer campaign to the likes of Donald Trump.
“That is precisely what someone like Donald Trump does too. He is not there to defend his position, but instead, to hold attention by using Twitter to create hype and controversy using twitter. We see it happening in politics and finance. We see companies trying to knock the reputations of listed companies using social media – so it is not surprising that this is happening in science too.”
YouTube has recently decided it will no longer recommend videos on their platform that offer misinformation regarding topics such as conspiracy theories or medically inaccurate videos. Adam Schiff is also hoping youTube will branch out and cover the anti-vaxxer movement as well.