Facebook: Taking Steps to Combat Vaccine Misinformation

Vaccine misinformation is part of the growing problem that is creating a public health crisis, especially surrounding the global measles outbreak.

Vaccine misinformation is part of the growing problem that is creating a public health crisis, especially surrounding the global measles outbreak. Facebook is now taking steps in the next few weeks to help combat the growing antivaccine movement.1,2 Measures include lowering the ranking of groups and pages that disseminate misinformation about vaccinations in the News Feed and Search sections of the page.1 Facebook will not include those groups and pages in recommendations or predictions when individuals type into search. Ads that include vaccine misinformation will be rejected, and those that continue to violate Facebook’s policy may have their accounts disabled. Also, Facebook-owned Explore and Instagram will not show or recommend content that contains vaccine misinformation.1

Facebook is also examining ways to share educational vaccine information from expert organizations when misinformation is encountered.1 Also, Facebook will be committed to taking action against vaccine hoaxes that have been identified by organizations such as the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1 However, Facebook will not be removing personal accounts that post vaccine misinformation, according to CNN.2

Social media has become a powerful tool, and Kyle E. Yasuda, MD, FAAP the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) sent letters to the CEOs of 3 major technology companies: Google, Facebook, and Pinterest emphasizing the growing threat that online vaccine misinformation poses to children’s health.3 The AAP is extremely concerned that parents are turning to social media and gaining inaccurate information that will be detrimental to their children’s health and well-being.

In fact, another study was recently published reiterating that the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine does not increase the risk for autism.4 More than 600,000 children were followed over a 10-year study period.4 The study published in 1998 by the British surgeon Andrew Wakefield linking the MMR vaccine with autism has been completely discredited since it was fraudulent.4 Additionally, the paper was retracted, and Andrew Wakefield lost his medical license. Yet, vaccine misinformation like the Wakefield paper are still being discussed among the antivaccine community. Hopefully, social media will be used in a meaningful way to counter vaccine misinformation and prevent future disease outbreaks. Pharmacists can play an important role in educating the public through social media on the importance of vaccines. Through a multidisciplinary approach, healthcare professionals can be the voice of science and reason through social media.

References

  • Bickert M. Combatting vaccine misinformation. Facebook Newsroom. https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2019/03/combatting-vaccine-misinformation/. Published March 7, 2019. Accessed March 8, 2019.
  • Scutti S. Facebook to target vaccine misinformation with focus on pages, groups, ads. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/07/health/facebook-anti-vax-messages-bn/index.html Published March 7, 2019. Accessed March 8, 2019.
  • AAP urges major technology companies to combat vaccine misinformation. AAP website. https://healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/AAP-Urges-Major-Technology-Companies-to-Combat-Vaccine-Misinformation.aspx. Published March 5, 2019. Accessed March 8, 2019.
  • Hviid A, Hansen JV, Frisch M, Melbye M. Measles, mumps, rubella vaccination and autism: a nationwide cohort study. Ann Intern Med. 2019 [Published online Mar 5, 2019]. doi: 10.7326/M18-2101.