Facebook has its hands full in trying to clean up its platform. The most recent being its removal of Facebook and Instagram accounts in the UK and Romania due to hate speech and divisive content.
The social network has expanded all efforts to boost election security and prevent political groups from manipulating voters through its platform.
Still, misinformation spreads like wildfire online. And it’s far beyond the propaganda and election campaigns. It can even inflict more damage to society by ingraining fear.
The rise of “anti-vax” sentiment is concerning. Many groups are sharing grave messages about the risks of vaccines.
Conspiracies have emerged. Stories of people being “forced” to immunize their children are circulating.
These stories have no scientific evidence to prove vaccines are dangerous. Yet, the sentiment is epidemic.
The World Health Organization saw Europe reach a record number of measles cases in 2018. A growing number of parents are snubbing vaccinations for their children.
A health risk that may affect billions of people is concerning.
Facebook came under fire in February for letting anti-vaccination ads spread on its platform. The ads targeted women in areas overran with measles cases.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) wrote a letter to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appease the outcry.
He asked about Facebook’s plans to protect users from misleading content against vaccinations.
Schiff sent a similar letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. The search giant is under scrutiny on how its search engine and YouTube assist in spreading potentially grave misinformation.
Bloomberg News first reported the firm might remove misleading content after Schiff’s letter.
Facebook followed up on Friday in a statement emailed to The Washington Post: “We’ve taken steps to reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation on Facebook, but we know we have more to do. We’re currently working on additional changes that we’ll be announcing soon.”
Pinterest had recently announced to stop the spread of anti-vax content.
Facebook Takes Action Against Anti-Vax
This week, Facebook announced new measures to do the same.
- We will reduce the ranking of groups and Pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations in News Feed and Search. These groups and Pages will not be included in recommendations or in predictions when you type into Search.
- When we find ads that include misinformation about vaccinations, we will reject them. We’ve also removed related targeting options, like “vaccine controversies.” For ad accounts that continue to violate our policies, we may take further action, such as disabling the ad account.
- We won’t show or recommend content that contains misinformation about vaccinations on Instagram Explore or hashtag pages.
- We are exploring ways to share educational information about vaccines when people come across misinformation on this topic.
While Pinterest will automatically delete anti-vax content on its platform, Facebook only wants to limit the reach of the sentiment.
Facebook has the means to limit reach. It must take a tougher stance against these material. It’s willing to do more, compared to its passive approach in the past.