Facebook is Combating Vaccine Misinformation

Facebook announced a plan to tackle vaccine misinformation on Facebook by reducing its distribution and providing people with authoritative information on the topic.

Here is what Facebook plans to do:

  • They will reduce the ranking of groups and Pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations in News Feed and Search. These groups and Pages will not be included in recommendations or in predictions when you type into Search.
  • When Facebook finds ads that include misinformation about vaccinations, they will reject them. Facebook also removed targeting options like “vaccine controversies.” For ad accounts that continue to violate Facebook’s policies, Facebook may take further action, such as disabling the ad account.
  • Facebook won’t show or recommend content that contains misinformation about vaccinations on Instagram Explore or hashtag pages.
  • Facebook is exploring ways to share educational information about vaccines when people come across misinformation on this topic.

How will this work? Facebook points out that leading global health organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have publicly identified verifiable vaccine hoaxes. If those hoaxes appear on Facebook, then Facebook will take action against them.

If a group or Page admin posts this vaccine misinformation, Facebook will exclude the entire group or Page from recommendations, reduce these groups and Pages’ distribution in News Feed and Search, and reject ads with this misinformation.

In addition, Facebook is going to provide people with additional context, so they can decide whether to read, share, or engage in conversations about information they see on Facebook. They are currently exploring ways to give people the 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.

BuzzFeed reported that Facebook will use machine learning and manual human review to identify and reduce specific kinds of anti-vax misinformation (such as the hoax that vaccines cause autism). Facebook will use these tools inside closed groups that are typically preferred by anti-vaxxers.

This might be the first time Facebook has done something that I am happy about! The first step toward reducing the spread of measles and other preventable diseases is to stop the spread of misinformation about vaccines.