Facebook issued an official policy regarding anti-vaccination misinformation within advertisements back last March.
Combatting Vaccine Misinformation
We are working to tackle vaccine misinformation on Facebook by reducing its distribution and providing people with authoritative information on the topic. We are starting by taking a series of steps:
- We will reduce the ranking of groups and Pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations in News Feed and Search. These groups and Pages will not be included in recommendations or in predictions when you type into Search.
- When we find ads that include misinformation about vaccinations, we will reject them. We also removed related targeting options, like “vaccine controversies.” For ad accounts that continue to violate our policies, we may take further action, such as disabling the ad account.
- We won’t show or recommend content that contains misinformation about vaccinations on Instagram Explore or hashtag pages.
- We are exploring ways to share educational information about vaccines when people come across misinformation on this topic.
Update on April 26, 2019 at 10AM PT: We may also remove access to our fundraising tools for Pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations on Facebook.
Update on September 4, 2019 at 8AM PT: We are starting to roll out more ways to connect people with authoritative information about vaccines on Facebook and Instagram.
Hey, that sounds great. Suppress misinformation and point people towards factual science-based information.
So now that some time has passed, how well is this working out?
The Daily Beast has an update.
Policy in Action – penalizing legitimate healthcare
Specific words related to vaccines trigger the policy. That’s fine if the content is indeed anti-vaccination misinformation. The problem that is emerging is that when you attempt to provide accurate science-based information related to vaccines, it also auto-triggers their new policy.
The good stuff is being suppressed …
This month, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the state’s official health department, bought 14 ads to promote a statewide program providing free pediatric vaccinations. Facebook removed all of them….
…The Minnesota Hospital Association, which lobbies the Minnesota legislature on behalf of the state’s hospitals, buys Facebook ads to fight vaccine disinformation and promote conversations with healthcare providers about vaccines. Over the last two months, Facebook has removed dozens of their ads.
Meanwhile the bad stuff gets through …
Children’s Health Defense, an anti-vaccine nonprofit founded and chaired by the nation’s most prominent vaccine conspiracy theorist, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., successfully placed more than 10 ads stoking unfounded fear about vaccines and other medical conspiracy theories.
Another page promoted a link to a website called vaccineholocaust.org without issue in June.
It is not a conspiracy.
Instead this is pure incompetence. Their machine learning algorithms basically suck. The ad campaign by the Minnesota Hospital Association was auto-suppressed by software. When the association flagged this for review by a human it then got through.
Emily Lowther, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Hospital Association, explained …
“It’s a moving mark what’s going to make it up and what’s going to get flagged. The systems they have in place are constantly changing. We often expect we’ll have to reupload ads,”
Read on and it is example after example of more of the same.
What is clear is that FB are really struggling with this.
Meanwhile in Politics …
During Zuckerberg’s recent congressional hearing one GOP loon, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), lambasted him for removing anti-vaccination misinformation.
Well yes, he is a Republican. Most now mimic their liar-in-chief by promoting myths as fact and fact as myth, so observing that he took a very public anti-science stance is not exactly a surprise. His argument is not actually with Zuckerberg, but rather is with the scientific community who have evidence and facts.
If indeed there is this degree of incompetence mingled in with political vitriol when it comes to vaccines, then that perhaps explains why Facebook is currently avoiding doing anything about being a platform that happily accepts cash to promote political lies. The issue is not that they don’t want to, but rather is that they have no idea how to deal with stuff like this.
The Twitter solution was to ban all political ads. That’s a great approach. I $imply have no idea why Facebook will not do the $ame.
- (March 2019) Facebook statement regarding anti-vaccination misinformation
- Daily Beast (26th Oct 2019) – Facebook Axed Pro-Vaccine Ads, Let Anti-Vaxxer Conspiracies Slip Through
Perhaps related to the topic of Truth and Facebook is this recent Article …
- Guardian (4th Nov 2019) – Hillary Clinton: Zuckerberg should pay price for damage to democracy