Published: Mon, February 18, 2019
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Facebook to Consider Removing or Demoting Anti-Vaccination Recommendations

Facebook to Consider Removing or Demoting Anti-Vaccination Recommendations

Reducing or removing anti-vaccination-related content from appearing in recommendations for groups, and demoting it from search results, are some of the ways the social network has outlined that it is considering, while ensuring that "higher quality and more authoritative information is available".

Bloomberg said information discouraging people from getting vaccines for their children has gone viral on Facebook.

A USA congressman is pushing Facebook and Google to consider cracking down on anti-vaccination content circulating over their platforms. The crisis drew attention on Thursday from Representative Adam Schiff, who sent a letter to Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Google boss Sundar Pichai, asking them to address the problem.

"The algorithms which power these services are not created to distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information, and the consequences of that are particularly troubling for public health issues". "Before the measles vaccination program started in 1963, an estimated 3 to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States", said the CDC.

Schiff sent the letter after The Guardian published a story on how anti-vaccination content can spread over the internet with the help of Facebook, and Google's YouTube service.

Less than 20 years ago, measles in the US was classified as a eradicated disease with only a few hundred cases nationwide, according to the Journal of Infectious Diseases. Washington state declared a local public health emergency in January after 25 cases of measles popped up in Clark County.

The company is considering options to make accurate information about vaccinations more accessible to users, but these efforts are in the early stages.

"While we work hard to remove content that violates our policies, we also give our community tools to control what they see as well as use Facebook to speak up and share perspectives with the community around them", Facebook said in a statement emailed to The Post on Wednesday. Last month, Google's YouTube unfurled a change in the way it recommends videos - an automated system that has been criticized for promoting misinformation.

We've taken steps to reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation on Facebook, but we know we have more to do.

In his letter, Schiff expresses his concern about declining vaccination numbers and asks what actions Facebook will take to prevent misleading information spreading online.

The question is: Should Facebook moderate or pull down anti-vaccine content?

"We're now working on additional changes that we'll be announcing soon", the company said in its email.

A Daily Beast report said there are almost 150 anti-vaccine advertising spots run by 7 Facebook pages targeting women over the age of 25.

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