Facebook to Tackle Anti-vaccination Misinformation in Fresh Crackdown
Anti-vaccination misinformation on social media has fuelled a tripling in measles cases in the UK.
Facebook has announced it will crack down on anti-vaccination posts, deceptive ‘miracle cures’, misleading health claims and weight-loss pill promotions.
The announcement outlined that Facebook will alter its algorithm to repress “sensational” content appearing on the platform’s news feed.
Facebook has faced mounting pressure on a global scale to stem the spread of damaging health conspiracies such as the anti-vaccination – or ‘Anti-vaxx’ – conspiracy which urges parents not to vaccinate their children.
Commenting on the announcement, Facebook product manager Travis Yeh, said: “In order to help people get accurate health information and the support they need, it’s imperative that we minimise health content that is sensational or misleading.
“We know that people don’t like posts that are sensational or spammy, and misleading health content is particularly bad for our community.”
Mr Yeh said the company would specifically target posts that “exaggerate or mislead” health claims or promote “miracle cures”.
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In addition, Facebook also explained that posts for pills claiming to help people lose weight would be included in the crackdown.
Earlier this year, the head of the NHS Simon Stevens said anti-vaccination misinformation on social media had fuelled a tripling in measles cases in the UK. In England last year, more than 900 cases of measles were recorded between January and October, marking a significant increase compared to the year previous, which saw 259 cases.
Furthermore, Health Secretary Matt Hancock called on social media companies to do “far more” to stop the spread of misleading health material. He also cautioned that the Government could legislate if they failed to do so.
“This is exactly the sort of thing we should be spending our time on and talking about and, if necessary, legislating for,” he said.
“As a country we can make decisions on these sorts of things. I want to see social media companies doing far, far more to take down this material which is so damaging.”