Facebook will take measures to tackle vaccine misinformation on its social networking sites, it announced last week (7 March).

The social media giant said it will commit to reducing the distribution of anti-vaccine content on the platform, including taking action against vaccine hoaxes identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

It will do this by reducing the ranking of content that spreads misinformation on vaccines in its news feed and search functions, it said.

Groups and pages that spread misinformation will be removed from recommendations or predictions in Facebook’s search function and similar content will not be shown or recommended on Instagram explore or hashtag pages.

Adverts that include misinformation about vaccines will be rejected and related targeting options such as ‘vaccine controversies’ will be removed, while advert-generating accounts that continue to violate policies may be disabled, the social networking site added.

Head of Facebook’s global policy management Monika Bickert said: ‘We also believe in providing people with additional context so they can decide whether to read, share, or engage in conversations about information they see on Facebook.

‘We are exploring ways to give people 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.’

Facebook said it will provide an update about this initiative soon.

Last week (5 March) a major new study once again confirmed there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.


‘Dangerous untruths’


Health Minister Simon Harris told The Times newspaper last week that ‘social media giants have a responsibility to stop the spread of these dangerous untruths’ while a report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) recommended that online platforms take action against ‘fake news’.

The report, published in January, branded social media a ‘breeding ground’ for the spread of ‘misleading and dangerous information’ about vaccines.

Last month, video-streaming service YouTube said it would demonetise channels that promote anti-vaccination content, preventing adverts from appearing alongside them, following an enquiry by Buzzfeed News.