Facebook is thinking about removing anti-vaccination content as backlash intensifies over the spread of misinformation on the social network

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Dado Ruvic/Reuters

  • Facebook said in a statement Thursday that it may remove, reduce, and demote anti-vaccination content on the platform in an effort to combat the spread of false information.
  • As an outbreak of measles spreads across the US, advertisements promoted by anti-vaccination organization have been targeting pregnant women on Facebook.
  • At the same time, posts are frequently shared within various Facebook Groups discouraging people from vaccinating their children.
  • Facebook said it is “thinking through what the right approach for this effort might look like” in a statement to Business Insider.

Following backlash and criticism over the spread of anti-vaccination rhetoric and sponsored advertisements targeting pregnant women in states seeing a surge in measles outbreaks, Facebook said it may reduce or remove the false information from the platform, according to a statement received by Bloomberg. The social network also said it could decide to demote anti-vaccination content from Facebook search results too.

Users have the ability to report content for review at any time, and health-related information is eligible for fact-checking by Facebook’s fact-checking partners in 25 countries. The company told Business Insider it is exploring ways to make educational information about vaccines more easily available while also minimizing harm caused by misinformation, however it is still “thinking through what the right approach for this effort might look like.”

“We are committed to accurate and useful information throughout Facebook,” a company spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement on Thursday. “We remove content that violates our Community Standards, down-rank articles that might be misleading, and show third-party fact-checker articles to provide people with more context. We have more to do, and will continue efforts to provide educational information on important topics like health.”

It is unclear when Facebook may be rolling such efforts out or if it has already.

As of right now, a simple Facebook search shows groups like Rage Against the Vaccine and The Truth About Vaccines (both spreading false information about vaccines) have over 40,000 members.

Facebook did not respond to request for comment on how the platform has been used by anti-vaccine advocates to target women, ages 20 to 60, interested in pregnancy in states seeing an increase in measles-related cases, as was first reported by The Daily Beast.

According to the CDC, there have been over 100 instances of measles since January – more than the entire year of 2016 when there were only 86. The World Health Organization listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health for 2019.

Critics, like Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democrat from California, have called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a letter Thursday to take action on the spike in false vaccine information running rampant on the platforms.

“The algorithms which power these services are not designed to distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information, and the consequences of that are particularly troubling for public health issues,” said Schiff in the letter addressed to both tech execs.

“Additionally, even parents and guardians who seek out accurate information about vaccines could unwittingly reach pages and videos with misinformation.”

Read Schiff’s entire letter here.