Facebook says it may stop recommending anti-vaccine material on the social network, bowing to public pressure to remove fake and dangerous public health information.
The technology giant is “exploring additional measures to best combat the problem,” a spokesman told Bloomberg.
The website has become inundated with posts and groups dedicated to “anti-vaxxers”, people who are spreading false information about side effects of vaccinations and promoting unfounded alternatives such as Vitamin C. The groups are gaining traction, thanks to social media websites like Facebook and YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, which promotes their content on users’ news feed or video playlist.
Medical experts have warned that parents are increasingly failing to vaccinate children because of inaccurate information they have read on social media.
Californian Democrat and Intelligence Select Committee Chair Adam Schiff sent an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, asking him to take responsibility for fear mongering on the website which might cause parents to think twice about immunising their children from harmful diseases.
“The World Health Organisation listed vaccine hesitancy, the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – as one of the top threats to global health in 2019,” he wrote.
He added that there was “strong evidence” to suggest that the source was Instagram and Facebook, where medically inaccurate information about vaccines can be found and where many people get their news and information from.
Google recently announced it would try to suppress videos based on conspiracy theories on its video platform, YouTube.
A study published in 2017 by Ayelet Evrony and Arthur Caplan warned that “organised anti-vaccination groups have contributed to the drop in vaccination compliance and anxieties concerning vaccination.
“These groups often have a strong presence on social media and well-developed websites that attract people to their cause. But these sites have drawn very little critical attention. In order to combat falling vaccination rates, it is important for those supporting vaccination to be aware of, examine, and counter the claims of these groups.”