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Facebook says it’s going to make it harder to access anti-vax misinformation

March 8, 2019

There’s no ban, but the social network says that pages or posts carrying anti-vaccine messages won’t be surfaced by its recommendation algorithm anymore.

The news: Facebook won’t go as far as banning pages that spread anti-vaccine messages. In a blog post announcing the new policy, Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, just said it would make them harder to find. It will do this by reducing their ranking and not including them as recommendations or predictions in search. On Instagram, anti-vax posts won’t appear on Instagram Explore or hashtag pages.

The blog also said that ads carrying vaccine misinformation would be rejected and that Facebook was “exploring ways to share educational information about vaccines when people come across misinformation on this topic.”

The background: There is a serious measles outbreak in the US at the moment, driven by a drop-off in vaccination rates. Facebook has come under fire for fuelling that trend (until recently, anti-vax pages came up top in searches for vaccine information, the Daily Beast reported.) Last month, Democratic representative Adam Schiff wrote to Mark Zuckerberg (and Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai) calling on them to do more to stop the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation. And last week, a teenager told Congress that he had been immunized against the wishes of his mother, who had received a lot of her anti-vaccine information from Facebook.

Hate speech takedown: The firm also announced today that says it has deleted 137 Facebook and Instagram pages that were pumping out misinformation aimed at UK users. The fake accounts were used to “to engage in hate speech and spread divisive comments on both sides of the political debate in the UK,” Facebook said.

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