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Ethan Lindenberger, Teen Who Defied Parents Over Vaccine, Says Anti-Vaxx Mom Believed Fake News On Facebook

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Eighteen-year-old Ethan Lindenberger appeared before a Senate Committee, where he stated his anti-vaxx mom's misinformation stemmed from social media. He said Facebook is among the sites often used by his mother to backup the idea vaccines are harmful.  ( Con Karampelas | Unsplash )

The teen who made headlines after defying his anti-vaxx mom has testified in front on Congress on Tuesday. Ethan Lindenberger appeared before the Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor, and Pensions where he stated his mother's misinformation about vaccines stemmed from social media.

Anti-Vaxx Mom Jill Wheeler Got Information From Facebook

The high school senior from Norwalk, Ohio said that when he started to question why he was not vaccinated, his mother would give him misinformation she found on the internet, particularly in social media groups.

He also said his mom, Jill Wheeler, never trusted health authorities. He cited one instance when he showed articles from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to which his mother responded with skepticism.

Lindenberger named Facebook as one of the sites often used by his mother to back up the idea that vaccines could cause harm. The 18-year-old also said his mom has posted videos with fake news on the social networking site.

"I grew up understanding my mother's beliefs that vaccines were dangerous," Lindenberger said "She would speak openly about these views."

Anti-Vaxxers On Facebook

Facebook is already under pressure to deal with the rise of anti-vaccination groups that spread false information about the dangers of vaccines.

Anti-vaxxer groups operate in closed groups where members need to be approved to join. Because access to these groups are controlled, they are able to serve misinformation without challenge.

Some of these groups have large number of followers. The Stop Mandatory Vaccination group, for instance, has more than 150,000 members. Some offer alternative treatments. The Vitamin C Against Vaccine Damage claims that consuming large doses of vitamin C can heal people from damage supposedly caused by vaccines.

Facebook Needs To Address Misinformation About Vaccines

In 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a subtle move to raise awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated by sharing a vaccination photo of his daughter Max. Facebook, however, apparently needs to do more to fight misinformation and fake news about vaccines that spread on the platform.

"Facebook should prioritise dealing with the threat to human health when falsehoods and misinformation are shared," American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson Wendy Sue Swanson said. "This isn't just self-harm, it's community harm."

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