I’d like to think that everyone who reads TNW knows that vaccines work. That they don’t cause autism, as demonstrated time and time again. That autism doesn’t need the extra stigma and is most certainly preferable to sick and dead kids. That vaccines keep everyone safer, not just the vaccinated.
But there are people who don’t believe in vaccines, and they are often led to those beliefs by misinformation spread on social media. Now Facebook says it’s taking a more direct stance against vaccine misinformation, reminiscent of recent moves to combat fake news.
The company will begin by reducing the ranking of both groups and Pages that “spread misinformation about vaccinations in News Feed and Search.” If a page meets the misinformation criteria, it won’t even show up in the predictions when you begin typing in Search – stopping people on clicking out of sheer curiosity. It also won’t show or recommend such content in Instagram Explore or hashtag pages.
The company will also reject ads with misinformation about vaccines as well as remove related targeting options like “vaccine controversies?”(that was a targeting option? Eesh.) If an account is a multiple offender, it might be disabled altogether.
The company also says it is exploring ways to share educational information about vaccines when people come across misinformation. It will have an update on how it will do so “soon.”
It’s worth noting that Facebook doesn’t directly call out anti-vaxxers in its announcement, and it’s not clear what the criteria are for posts to qualify as misinformation. Notably, the company doesn’t say it will try to hide individual anti-vax posts – just groups, pages, and ads.
Trying to regulate exactly what users are allowed to say would likely open up an entirely different can of worms. As dangerous as the anti-vax movement is, the company isn’t likely to want to stifle discourse completely.
Still, today’s changes are an important step in the right direction. We’ve contacted Facebook for more information on its process and will update this post if we hear back.
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