Since coming into the new year, 17 cases of measles have been confirmed in Vancouver alone. Due to a large number of outbreaks, a microscope has been put on the vaccine community, especially anti-vaccine movements. In order to combat anti-vaccine information, Facebook has put a plan into action that will make it more difficult to access anti-vaccine information on its social media platform.
Amidst a large number of measles outbreaks happening in North America, Facebook plans to combat misinformation on its website. Earlier today, Facebook announced that a series of steps will be taken by the social media platform to combat anti-vaccine information from spreading online.
The first step will be to reduce the ranking of groups and pages that spread misinformation about vaccines on news feeds and search bars. The groups and pages will no longer be included on recommendations or predictions when you type in the search bar.
You will now also be able to reject ads that include anti-vaccine information. If ad accounts continue to violate policies, Facebook has stated that it will take “further action.” This would include disabling the ad account.
Along the advertising line, Facebook will no longer recommend content that contains anti-vaccine information. This will include Instagram Explore and hashtag pages. Facebook has also stated they will be exploring new ways of sharing educational information on vaccines when site users come across misinformation.
“We are exploring ways to give people more accurate information from expert organizations about vaccines at the top of results for related searches, on Pages discussing the topic, and on invitations to join groups about the topic,” states the Facebook press release.
The Guardian recently published a report stating that Facebook was accepting thousands of dollars in advertising among anti-vaccination groups. Instead of vaccines, the pages were offering alternatives that included high doses of vitamin C. They also targeted parents with scary misinformation about the effects of vaccines.
Anti-vaccine movements and groups have been known to persuade the public with misinformation regarding vaccines. In early February, a father at the centre of the measles outbreak in Vancouver did not vaccinate his child due to autism fears.
According to CBC, the man said his former wife was influenced by reports that linked vaccines for meals to autism. While the CDC claims that there is no evidence linking vaccines to autism, the father claimed that at the time, doctors were coming out with research stating the opposite.
As of today, there have been 17 confirmed cases of measles in Vancouver. This large number of outbreaks has caused a lot of conversations to be had, even bringing with it a change.org petition to make vaccines mandatory in schools.
Since the outbreaks have started in Vancouver, the BC Health Minister has considered following the Ontario model of mandatory vaccinations. This would make it more difficult for children who are not vaccinated to enter the public school system.
Even though Vancouver has a measles vaccination rate that is below average, Vancouver doctors are saying it is unlikely to spread. Dr. Reka Gustafson of Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) spoke publicly to the media stating that the measles outbreaks we have been seeing have occurred in “clusters.”