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Saturday, June 1, 2019

Antivax Misinformation Lingers on Facebook

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  TwitterFacebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.

Jeff Horwitz at The Wall Street Journal:
Ten weeks after Facebook Inc. FB -3.03% pledged to fight vaccine misinformation, such content remains widely available across its platforms as the social-media giant grapples with how aggressively to limit the spread of hoaxes and deceptions.
Facebook as of this week is still running paid ads for a prominent antivaccination group that suggests unethical doctors have conspired to hide evidence of harm vaccines do to children. Both the company’s main platform and its Instagram app recommend additional antivaccine content to users who view similar material. And the top three vaccine-related accounts recommended by Instagram are “vaccinetruth” “vaccinesuncovered” and “vaccines_revealed”—all advocates for the discredited claim that vaccines are toxic.

“We’re not where we want to be,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, said in an interview. “And we know that.”
Some solutions implemented by the company can be less than meets the eye. Facebook’s commitment to cull advertising from antivaccine groups, for example, is being applied only to ads that include falsehoods in their actual text.

A prominent antivaccination organization, the World Mercury Project, is pitching a free e-book alleging that vaccines can cause autism, sudden infant death syndrome and sterility—all claims that Facebook would ban under its stated policy. But the company deems the ad acceptable because the ad text itself makes only vague claims about “conflicts of interest” and “tainted science,” before directing users to material containing claims explicitly banned by Facebook.