Facebook becomes the next company to take a stand against the anti-vaccine movement with their announcement of new policies against the spread of false information about vaccines.
The company has come under fire for the slew of anti-vax groups and pages on the website spreading myths, such as vaccines causing autism and conspiracy theories about mandatory vaccinations.
As a response to the criticisms, Facebook announced a multi-step plan to curb the anti-vaccine movement on their social media platform, which includes Facebook-owned Instagram.
Facebook Takes Steps To Stop The Spread Of Misinformation
In an official statement, Facebook's head of global policy Monika Bickert announced that the company is planning to take action against vaccine hoaxes that have been publicly identified by global health organizations such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Groups and pages with content containing these hoaxes will no longer appear in recommendations and predictions in the Search bar. While Facebook will not be taking down these anti-vaccine groups and pages, the company will be lowering their rankings and reducing their distribution in the News Feed and Search.
Ads with false information will be rejected and anti-vaccine content banned from hashtag pages and Instagram Explore.
Furthermore, the company is exploring ways of giving Facebook users more accurate information from health experts and organizations.
"Counter-speech in the form of accurate information can help create a safer and more respectful environment," a spokesperson for Facebook tells The Verge when asked why the anti-vaccine groups and pages aren't banned from the platform completely. "As with a lot of our integrity efforts, striking the balance between enabling free expression of opinion and ensuring the safety of the community is something we are fully committed to."
New Policies Come After Criticisms On Facebook
These changes comes less than a month after Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) penned a public letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging the executive to take action against the viral spread of false information about vaccines on the website.
Pointing out that the algorithms are not designed to recognize quality information from falsities, Schiff expressed his concern over posts, messages, and advertising containing vaccine misinformation being spread over Facebook and Instagram, among other websites.
Last month, The Daily Beast found nearly 150 anti-vaccine advertising spots on Facebook that specifically target women over the age of 25, which is the demographic most likely to have children needing vaccinations.