In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.
Facebook groups and pages devoted to promoting vaccine skepticism rank at the top of Facebook searches for vaccination-related terms like “vaccines,” helping those groups spread false claims that vaccines cause autism and the like.
The top results for vaccine information on Facebook, for example, returned “anti-vaxx” groups with names like “United Against Vaccines,” Vaccines Injury Stories,” “Vaccines Exposed,” and pages related to opposing mandatory vaccination rules
The groups and pages push a hard line against vaccinations, often paired with pictures of babies and needles. The groups often include memes claiming that doctors don’t learn enough about vaccines in medical school to be trusted.
One Facebook page, “The Truth About Vaccines,” has more than 130,000 followers receiving posts with articles claiming, among other things, that children who don’t receive vaccines are healthier than those who do. The operator of another page, “Stop Mandatory Vaccination,” assured the page’s more than 110,000 followers in a post that they don’t need vaccinations.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Daily Beast it removes information that violates its community guidelines and allows users to tailor the information they see on the site. Facebook has also attempted to offer third-party fact-checking alongside inaccurate articles that appear in a user’s News Feed. But Facebook refused to comment on why it allows anti-vaccine hoaxes to spread on the site, or why it makes it so easy to find anti-vaxx groups through searches.