Facebook Combats Against Misinformation About Vaccines

Facebook released its first policy to fight against misinformation about vaccines on Thursday. As per the policy, anti-vax misinformation will not be shown regularly over people’s public pages & groups, News Feeds, and private pages and groups, recommendation widgets on the website.

Let’s know the story behind the decision!

Why This Announcement?

After Pinterest and YouTube, now Facebook has joined the league to combat against misinformation about vaccines. The decision was taken after weeks of pressure from legislators and public health advocates to act against anti-vax content.

Facebook said in its announcement,

“We are exploring ways to share educational information about vaccines when people come across misinformation on this topic. 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 these vaccine hoaxes appear on Facebook, we will take action against them.”

After a measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest in January, California Rep, Adam Schiff sent Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a letter that matters with the method used by big tech companies show anti-vaccine content and forced them to take action.

Schiff wrote,

“The algorithms which power these services are not designed to distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information. And the consequences of that are particularly troubling for public health issues.”

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How Other Companies Reacted To The Urge By Schiff?

YouTube, last month said that it would stop channels promoting anti-vax content from running advertising. Also, the video sharing site clearly said that these videos fall under its policy violating the monetization of videos with   “dangerous and harmful” content.

Last week, Schiff published another open letter urging Amazon to review featuring anti-vax content on the website; the company seems to have eliminated anti-vaccination documentaries from search results of Amazon Prime Video.

In February, Facebook acknowledged Schiff’s letter and said that the company was “working on additional changes” to “reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation.” However, until today, no plans of execution were revealed.

How Is Facebook Planning To Battle This?

Facebook said that it will utilize ML (machine learning) and manual human review to detect and decrease specific kinds of anti-vax misinformation including the lie that vaccines induce autism. Facebook also mentioned that it will eliminate anti-vax groups and pages from recommended groups and pages sections. These recommendation widgets have been an important method used by anti-vax communities to expand on the platform.

Facebook has planned to block ads containing anti-vax content and remove ad targeting alternatives such as “vaccine controversies.” If such accounts continue to promote anti-vax misinformation using ads, Facebook may maim them.

This policy will be extended to Instagram. This means, Anti-vax hashtags will not be seen on Instagram hashtag pages, and also all will be blocked from Explore tab of Instagram.

Is This Enough?

Most of Facebook’s tools for checking misinformation & dangerous content depend on the flagging system of the platform, which has been called oversimplified. One of the disadvantages of the flagging system in terms of moderating anti-vax communities is that the administrators of anti-vaccination groups are dubious to flag any kind of anti-vaccine content as “false news.”

Now Facebook will be using the same Artificial Intelligence tools which are used to review and analyze content in public feeds & utilize them within closed groups usually favored by anti-vaxxers.

So, the question is: will it work or does Facebook need to work to make its tools more apt and complicated? What do you think?

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