After indicating that it was exploring its options to combat the potentially deadly surge in vaccination content on its platform last month, Facebook is making a plan of attack.
From Facebook The strategy in the effort is to minimize the spread of misinformation about vaccination and to steer users away from inaccurate anti-vaccination propaganda and toward “authoritative information,” that is, information corroborated by the scientific and health establishment.
To achieve a reduction in the spread of anti-vax propaganda, Facebook will reduce the range of groups and pages that spread this type of content through the News Feed and its search function. Facebook will also reject ads that promote anti-vaccination misinformation. Repeat offenders who try to promote this content through ads may see their accounts disabled. On Instagram, Facebook “will not display or recommend content containing misinformation about vaccines on Instagram Explore or hashtag pages”, effectively separating content from public spaces. Facebook noted that it would also remove adjacent anti-vax ad targeting descriptors, including the term “vaccine controversies.”
Facebook’s role in the rise of anti-vaccination or “anti-vax” conspiracy theories was highlighted last month. In light of reports pointing to the responsibility of Facebook and YouTube in spreading this particularly dangerous form of misinformation, prominent California Representative Adam Schiff wrote to the two companies demanding “additional information on the steps he is currently taking to provide accurate medical information about vaccines “to your users.”
Last month, Bloomberg reported that Facebook was “exploring additional measures to better combat the problem,” including “reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations, including the groups it should join, and downgrading results. search, while ensuring higher quality and More authoritative information is available. “
Like other dangerous forms of online misinformation, the prevalence of anti-VAX content has destructive implications in the real world. Currently, the US is experiencing an outbreak of measles, a completely preventable infectious disease that threatens the health of children and vulnerable populations, and is creating large school closures in places like Clark County. , Washington.
When Facebook directs its attention toward reducing the public outreach of a particular variety of conspiracy theory or pernicious content, it tends to do a fairly thorough job. The problem, of course, is that such efforts by Facebook and other major tech platforms are still reactionary rather than proactive, meaning the next big outbreak of harmful, even deadly, algorithm-fueled disinformation is probably just around the corner. the corner.